Hip-Hop Royalty: Russell Simmons & Def Jam visit Arsenio Hall [Article]
Los Angeles, CA – You can’t get much more deeply rooted in hip-hop culture then when you have two of it biggest cultural promoters in one place. This was the case when Def Jam and Russell Simmons took over The Arsenio Hall Show on March 26, partly in honor of the 30th anniversary of Def Jam as a record label.
More than just another interview by Arsenio Hall, this pairing felt like two old friends sitting on a brown stone stoop in Brooklyn debating who the greatest rapper of all time was. Especially when you add in the fact that legendary West Coast producer / Snoop Dogg’s tour DJ, Battlecat, kept the music running for the entire night.
Topics ranged from Russell’s views on the current state of hip-hop and how he was proud of what it had become to him agreeing with how difficult it has been for Kanye and his journey into the fashion world along with the segregation that still exists.
The most interesting part of the evening was the dialogue that ensued between Russell and Arsenio about Russell’s new book and the benefits of mediation. To put it in simple terms, Russell was explaining that the whole key to why mediation is so important is the simple fact it helps you tune into where you’re at. He likened it to when ball players are in the zone and they just can’t seem to miss – because the past and present don’t exist and all that exist is the now. The book is called Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple and is available through Amazon, iTunes and other outlets.
Russell also brought along spoken word artist Black Ice. To say Black Ice dropped some knowledge would be an understatement. In his three minutes plus long performance, Ice basically broke down all the trappings of the major label system and why young inner city youth would sell their souls for a chance at a record deal. He likened it to modern day slavery and that he would never get caught in it.
Some of the best parts of the taping were not televised, including Arsenio explaining the story of Russell bringing him a young MC by the name of LL Cool J. Russell asked Arsenio not to follow the other late night competition but rather promote and convey what they could not or had no interest in doing. Following this guidance, Arsenio broke and continues to break and promote the best roster of hip-hop acts on late night TV. To quote Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, “What is Channel nine if it doesn’t have Arsenio?”
Photography and words by Maxwell Benson for HipHopCanada