Russell Simmons. Entrepreneur. Visionary. Cultural icon. Idiot.
He’s all those things. And this latest bit of WTFery that was the Harriet Tubman sex tape was just one of the many, many sin Simmons has “accidentally” committed against humanity. For your reading pleasure (or displeasure … I don’t pretend to know what you’re into), I present you, Russell Simmons top sins of stupidity.
5) The time he got into the prepaid calling card business.
Russell often has a lot to say about empowerment and self-actualization and a bunch of other stuff he probably got from some really chatty yogi, but fundamentally, Simmons is a business man no matter what pastiche of nobility he slathers on that day. The Rush Card is the best example of this. Pre-paid debit cards have high fees, siphoning away the money people put on them and who are the folks most likely to use a pre-paid credit card? The very same people Big Russ is always talking about uplifting – the poor, the young, the black and the brown.
Here’s what I wrote back in 2009 about the “hustlenomics” of Russell Simmons’ “Rush Card:
Oh, Russell. Is there anything you won’t sell? You practically have a PhD in Hustlenomics. Hell, you might have helped invent it. And Kiki! [Editor’s Note: That’s Kimora Lee Simmons for the uninitiated] Is that YOU in the ad lending your grinning, ex-supermodel face? I’ll cut you some slack because we all know you probably took that photo from the window of the car as you circled through the drive through while picking up your monthly check from Russ. That said, the card has some … um … hidden drama according to critics, in the form of $50 a year in fees.
4) The time he challenged FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly to a “Blog-off” over “the poets.”
As we’ll get to later on this post Simmons has a history of defending rappers – any and every rapper – no matter how deplorable or sexist their lyrics are. He calls them all “poets.” In 2009, Bill O’Reilly and friends were making a lot of hay over the rappers and newly elected President Obama’s “affiliation” with the rappers, namely Jay-Z. Russell Simmons decided he’d had enough of FOX’s Bill O’Reilly diss talking about rappers – ahem, I mean poets – and thought it was time to challenge O’Reilly to a battle of the minds … over blogs.
“As editor-in-chief of Global Grind, I am calling out Bill O’ Reilly,” Simmons wrote. “If you really want to speak to the hip-hop community, even with your consistent targeted comments that take issue with what some hip-hop artists and other cultural leaders have said about America and about the world in which we all live, then I invite Bill O’ Reilly to write a blog directly to the hip-hop nation …
“For far too long Bill has used The O’ Reilly Factor on Fox News to spew inaccurate statements and ideological taunts about hip-hop,” Simmons continued in today’s blog. “We believe in dialogue, but it should be a real dialogue face to face, blog to blog.”
Look? I dislike Bill O’Reilly as much as the next red-blooded Negro American, but a BLOG BATTLE? Bill O’Reilly is on the teevee. His realm is teevee. You Russell Simmons also go on the teevee. HAVE A TEEVEE BATTLE! Sheesh. This pissing contest was the equivalent of a six-year-old shouting “yo Mama!” and instead of fisticuffs, the other six-year-old shouts out “yo Daddy!” Well, let’s just shout out all the relatives, shall we? Let’s insult them all so we know that you really don’t want to fight.
Beef does not work this way.
3) The time he said “Internet superstar” Tila Tequila was just like Michelle Obama (for not wearing fur).
No. Please God. Nooooooo.
“Our blogger, Tila Tequilla, trumped all of our other celebrity bloggers by handing in the most viewed and commented blog in the history of Global Grind on the subject of animal abuse,” Simmons wrote.
Simmons then went on to draw parallels between Tequila, American First Lady Michelle Obama and French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, both of whom recently pledged to go fur-free.
Now, to his, um, credit, I think he was making a loose comparison related to wearing fur, not implying that … oh my God. I just don’t know anymore. I’d like to link to the original post but Global Grind has appeared to scorched the earth of their 2008-2009 archives. Maybe they too want to think none of this happened. Even I want to think he was just talking out of his arse that day. I need to believe that. That’s what I’m gonna believe. He meant nothing by this. This never happened.
2) The time he called your worst rapper a “poet” because who cares about black women, that’s why!
This is actually my biggest beef with Simmons. I can get over all this other stuff, it’s small ball. But part of the reason why some of these blunders exist are because Simmons holds some possibly retrograde views on women. I’m sure he likes women. I’m sure he respects the various fashion models he dates. I bet he loves his mother. But he will not, under any circumstances, ever disagree with any rap lyric in the history of rap no matter how sexist, vulgar or disgusting.
Russell will defend the right to denigrate, disrespect and abuse black women (in lyrical form) because … it’s “art,” duh? (Vlogger Jay Smooth at Ill Doctrine probably had the best assessment on this back in 2007.) But usually Simmons is casting these arguments (for the poets) by drawing comparisons to their conservative critics. But considering how much “bitch” and “ho” is thrown around, all Simmons ever convinces me of is perhaps a lot of rappers are secret conservative Republicans who think a woman’s place is to shut up and to politely perform some form of sex act.
Here he is in 2011 comparing rappers to Sean Hannity:
“Every rapper that’s famous is less gangster, less homophobic, less racist, and less sexist than Sean Hannity. I like him [Hannity], but that’s what I’m saying about the rappers I know,” said Mr. Simmons. “Snoop Dogg is less sexist than [Hannity]. Snoop Dogg is less racist than him. Snoop Dogg is less homophobic than him and Snoop Dogg is a lot less gangster than him. So Sean Hannity has to handle his own business. He’s got his own issues.” Mr. Simmons said.
He added, “All that is are songs that talk about police brutality in a kind of poetic way and say mean things. They promote dialogue. Poets always create controversy by saying what people think. They’re less sexist. They’re less homophobic. They’re less racist and they’re certainly less gangster than Sean Hannity…all of them rappers. So I ain’t thinking about him.”
I would have been with him if he’d just said Sean Hannity was a douche (because he is), but this is just silly. Rappers are less sexist and homophobic? How about we split the difference and say it’s about the same here only one is selling mp3s and the other is selling right wing talk. Both involve crapping on women and gays for the sake of their “art” so let’s just leave it at that.
1) The time he defended Chris Brown by comparing him to “the Disney Kids.”
Remember that time Lindsay Lohan beat the crap out of her girlfriend Samantha Ronson? Nope. Me neither. Yet, Simmons wanted to blame singer Chris Brown’s immaturity, rage and that time he nearly beat his girlfriend to death/trashed a green room/trashed a night club/fought everyone on Twitter due to youthful indiscretion thanks to “child stardom.”
“Chris Brown is suffering” he said. And Jesus wept too, I bet.
From the LA Times:
“I am troubled by the people, critics and members of the media who drag Chris away from his art. His freedom is deeply rooted in his artistic expression. It is during those seconds of stillness when you’re dancing that the Christ/Buddha/Allah/Moses inside of you is awakened and comes to power.”
I swear. AGAIN with the art. Russell Simmons has the loosest definition of art in the history of art criticism. “Illmatic” was art. “Reasonable Doubt” was art. “Ready to Die” was art. Trying to save the guy who made “Wet the Bed” … that’s crappy pop music. Not art. Trying to save Chief Keef, of all people, again, Chief Keef is not making “art.” I get that another person’s art is another person’s noise, but when you’re on your own, defending the indefensible, maybe you should check yourself. This isn’t Tupac and Biggie here. It’s Chris Brown and Chief Keef. You reap what you sow. Let them sow already, Russ. Let them sow.