Russell Simmons, Chairman & Ceo of Rush Communications
This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, April 4, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now that you know what a musical powerhouse hip- hop has become, you can meet the man who has helped make it big. He helped launch the careers of acts like Run-DMC and LL Cool J. But with sometimes controversial lyrics and videos, how did hip-hop become the force to be reckoned with?
Here to tell us, the chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, Russell Simmons. Russell, good to have you back.
RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN & CEO, RUSH COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you. It's good to be here.
CAVUTO: They say the lines have been watered down, the lyrics have been watered down. So that's what is doing it. Is it?
SIMMONS: I don't know if that's true, but let me first speak to one of the statements that was made. If rock-and-roll is the No. 1 music in this country, then we have to still figure out what is rock-and-roll because it's such a diverse group of musical ideas today. And that is so watered down, if you will. We really can't define it.
I would say that rap was absolutely the No. 1 music in America today.
CAVUTO: All right. Now, you and others and Louis Farrakhan and others have tried to rain down on some of the violent lyrics to try to broaden it out, right?
SIMMONS: Well, I think that what I like about rap music is its honesty and its integrity. It speaks for and to a lot of the issues that are not usually addressed and for people who do not get a chance to, you know — it's a voice for many people who don't have voices.
CAVUTO: But do you need the kind of voice though, Russell — like Eminem. I mean, he has the — one of his lyrics, "shut up" — I won't even say the word — "I ain't going to shoot you. I'm going to pull you to this bullet and put it through you. You ain't nothing but a slut to me."
SIMMONS: You know, I spend a lot of time promoting the fact that honesty is where our greatest sales and possibilities are.
CAVUTO: Can you be honest without saying that?
SIMMONS: Let me answer your question. Eminem is sort of like -- is a college joke. He's having a good time. He's saying things that kids say for the sake of shock value. And that is one thing.
Most of rap, most of which you might find objectionable in rap, is about the condition that these people are suffering from and it's a reflection of that reality. I am not offended by language. I am not offended by these concepts. I'm offended more by the conditions that create these concepts.
CAVUTO: No doubt.
But would you let a young child listen to that?
SIMMONS: Well, in that case, the young child certainly should not watch the news. He certainly should not listen to, you know, mainstream media's discussion of the war or — there is a reality factor that has to be adhered to. Senator Thompson said in the hearings that he thought that every young child, 15 years old or over, should watch Saving Private Ryan because they would learn about the realities of war and the issues surrounding war, the integrity you have. Well, in that case, every young child, 15, had better hear Snoop Dogg because that's a war that's going on down the block from where they live.
CAVUTO: But is there a better way to explain that war or tell that war than just a bunch of curse words and sexual references?
SIMMONS: You know, I have a strong connect, personal connection, belief about my spirituality and its power over me and the choices that I make. But I can't accept language as the biggest burden for me to get over. That is a cultural issue.
CAVUTO: Yes, but, you know, you're a pretty savvy marketer, Russell. And, obviously, you made a decision to widen or broaden this field out and maybe cut away from the violent lines. And that was something that other leaders in this industry did, right?
SIMMONS: I inspire artists as much as possible. In the hip-hop summit and all the work we do at the summit is to get the truth out of artists. I tell them always that if you are choosing a subject matter to sell records, then truth is biggest and best for your profitability. And most...
CAVUTO: But do you also tell them that you can expand that base by cutting down...
SIMMONS: And most rappers who are successful — in other words, there are many Goodfellas movies, but the big movies are by Disney. And that is an important statement.
CAVUTO: You do not want this to become Disneyfied though, right?
SIMMONS: No, no. I meant Will Smith is maybe the biggest rapper in the world. And Lauryn Hill is one of the biggest rappers in the world. LL Cool J, my brother, Reverend Run from Run-DMC has had tremendous success and still does enjoy success. So there is a diverse group of messages that are being delivered. And I think that group of messages can be widened some and I do promote the artists. If you travel the world and you come back home, it is impossible for you to just glorify certainly the negative condition that your people still live in.
CAVUTO: Russell, thank you very much. Good seeing you again.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
CAVUTO: Russell Simmons of Rush Communications, the big cheese there.
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