FLUX Mag pounced on the opportunity to chat with hip-hop mogul and famed entrepreneur Russell Simmons when he made his way over to the motherland.
Simmons was brought down by Ndalo Media and Mazda to deliver a talk on self-mastery for the Mazda Destiny Forum. To the not-so-enlightened, Russell Simmons is the hip-hop visionary that started the legendary record label Def Jam Records and launched the careers of a plethora of now-iconic rap-acts such as the Beastie Boys, Run DMC (Rev Run is his brother), LL Cool J amongst others; positively catalysed a niche for the urban market through his Phat Farm clothing label; is a social, gay and animal rights activist and also has business endeavours in film, video-games, online and financial services and then some… During the dark days of hip-hop, when it was morbidly energised by former Death Row Records boss Suge Knight and synonymous with gang-banging; Simmons was an urban beacon of hope that promoted hustle and empowerment through enlightenment and social commentary.
From Kurtis Blow to Ludacris, the greatest rap acts of all time have passed through the hallways of Def Jam Records so naturally I pondered which artist stood out the most to him. Simmons commented, “Def Jam Records had so many talented artists that it is almost impossible single out a favourite but if I have to pick, Public Enemy springs to mind. They created social awareness through their music. Guys like Chuck D (Public Enemy frontman) were a huge inspiration.”
In light of his nephew and rapper Diggy Simmon’s much publicised feud with artist J. Cole, Simmons said that he does not think much about beef these days as a lot of it is akin to pro-wrestling and created to generate discussion about the artists. Upon conversing with him, you instantly receive an overwhelming notion that there is a lot more to him than beats and lyrics. Simmons is a huge advocate of meditation and its beneficial properties. He maintains that quiet time is essential for everybody to looking inside themselves and reflect. Much of his success is a result of his ardent belief in all his endeavours and an ever-burning fire to succeed and help others. He said, “Create something you love and people need and give back. If you are a vegan don’t run a steak-house. Do things that inspire you and uplift other people.”
Simmons openly admits that he did not achieve success instantly and endured several years of failure before acquiring his current supernovaesque level of success. “Dedication, resilience and faith are three essential ingredients to success. People quit too often. They dig and hit a rock. You have to dig through the rock. Have faith in your business-plan and stay on it,” advises Simmons. This may sound like self-help hoopla but these are the principles that he has built his empire on.
While Simmons admits to having many mentors, most profound being Quincy Jones, he states there is not much he can show anybody else that you couldn’t find in his motivational book, Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success. He said these ideas on prosperity are written over and over again in some shape or form in all scriptures from different religions, especially the notion of good givers being great receivers. Refreshingly Simmons does not claim to be a saint and speaks of a tainted past that was laden with drugs. Simmons admits if he could back in time he would not touch those drugs or even eat meat (he is currently a vegan). However he also maintains that those experiences (regardless of good or bad) brought him to his present position. I could not resist questioning Simmons on how he feels about syrupy rappers like Nelly and Flo Rider and the flack they receive for lacking lyrical depth. Simmons said, “That’s an old man’s thing, I am like that and I don’t want to be like that. Hip hop is a broad genre so it has room for that. You get a lot of party rappers but I don’t think anybody is weakening hip hop because they don’t make the type of records I was accustomed to coming up.” I could not help but get the impression that he was putting on a herculean effort to be diplomatic.
The Mazda Destiny Forum proved to be a massive success as scores of business-folk and even the cream of Gauteng’s social scene flocked to the event for some business and spiritual enlightenment from Uncle Rush. He was extremely engaging with the crowd and conversed in a very nonchalant manner that kept the mood extremely light hearted. He mentioned, “Needing nothing attracts everything. Having things promotes a greater need. Needing nothing is super-rich. If you are thinking of the money when making a product, you are making a bad product, focus on the product… No matter how big your house is, you can only sit your ass on one seat.” Simmons drove home the recurring theme of being driven by passion (rather than money)and finding your fire. After listening to his pearls of wisdom it is little wonder, why he is a juggernaut on the career path and he has a Midas touch.