The Inspiration Is Free
Artist: Russell Simmons
Interviewer: Alexander Fruchter
There is a quote from the Hip Hop artist Soulstice that I am often reminded of from time to time. He says, "If you listen time will teach you what you already know." That lyric struck a chord with me when I first heard it in 2005, and it still strikes a chord with me in my day-to-day life. On the sunny afternoon in late March when I had the pleasure to speak with Russell Simmons, I was reminded yet again of my friend Soulstice's words. As I read Russell's new book, "Do You," a guide to success and inner-happiness, I thought about the laws that Russell Simmons was communicating and teaching. Laws such as staying true to yourself, taking time out to meditate and reflect, to stick to your vision despite what others may say, all of those laws lead to a better understanding not just of the world, but of the individual. They press us to get in touch with ourselves, the self that has been developing daily in the midst of our struggles, our victories, our hours of watching TV, of exercising, and even through the times during which we wished to be someone else. However, as Dilated Peoples say, "this is where the plot thickens regardless of wealth, cause the worst person to run from is yourself."
"I thought this was supposed to be about Russell Simmons," is what you're probably thinking right now. And as you read on you will see that it is. Just as this introduction references multiple artists, and ideas, so did Russell Simmons during our 20-minute conversation. While talking to him, I could only imagine what he was doing on the other end of the phone as his mind raced and he talked almost faster than I could think. He sounded so passionate about his book, about his teachings, and most of all about still improving on his own mission to find true happiness and success. It's clear from his position in life that he is on the right track, so regardless of how you feel about Russell Simmons, his accomplishments demand respect, and his voice has earned the right to be listened to.
In the following interview Russell Simmons expounds on some of the laws presented in the book, the choice to be happy, and the changing landscape that is the recording industry. In the words of J-Live, "If you think that you can ignore it, you're ignorant."
SoundSlam: A lot of what you talk about in the book are laws that you say you've learned from years of experience and overcoming things. How many of the laws do you feel might not sink into people until they go through some experiences and see real life examples on their own? Is it necessary for people to have real life experiences to really learn what you've learned?
Russell Simmons:I believe that we're all born in different stages of our full development. In other words we are here to learn to operate in order. We're here to learn to operate under the laws. Some of us know and have faith in the laws. We don't all know everything that's in this book. Meditation and prayer will remind you of all of this stuff. You know it's all right and true. Your mama told you, your preacher told you, your rabbi told you. You know this stuff! How you use it, maybe sometimes is not so obvious, so you can repeat it. The idea of happiness, which is a key, which is really success, the kind that will allow you the freedom to access whatever you want. In other words, to use the secret you have to know what's inside or you can't achieve or access the power that we talk about. In every scripture they always remind you, 'oh Jesus could do everything.' But besides him, nobody even wanted to show you who you could be. All the great realized beings would say, 'well s**t, everything's in perfect order.' But some people had to show you that you could promote miracles. Jesus was here for that purpose. The book, "Do You," a talk show host told me to change the name, we had 150,000 copies printed and the book was called "The Laws of Success." It was kind of sterile. I didn't know, cause I had a radio show called "Laws of Success" on the radio in like 50 cities for three years. That's why the book was written. They heard all the laws of success and it was an easy sale. They know that I had been doing this radio morning thing every morning. So the book is not a compilation of that, but it's the same basic laws that everybody knows but most people don't have enough faith in to operate under all the time. We all deviate. But the point is the laws are unbreakable.
SoundSlam: You were talking about realizing the laws, and realizing what's already inside of you. You have "Get Your Mind Right" as law number three. Some may say that it should be first. Why did you decide to make it law number three?
Russell Simmons: I don't know...hahaha...I have to look at it. I got the final book today...What I'm trying to do is frame what's obvious. What's in the Koran, the Torah, and Bible, Yoga Sutra, and all these scriptures, which are all the same but framed differently, different language, different colors, different people said the same things. The science of religion is one in the same in my opinion. One and one is still too. Karmic laws are exactly the same no matter what religion reminded you to promote the kind of Karma that gives you back the kind of Karma that you want. How will people digest these laws? What is my relationship with these people? Is it strong enough that I can inspire?
This book was written for Jinx The Juve. Jinx The Juve is like my son. I met him when he was 15, and he had bullets in him. He was on Def Jam. People around him were saying, 'the next Jay-Z.' This was only six years ago...Three years later he got dropped. No matter how much I've tried to mentor him, I call him my son today still, he kept getting shot. He's been shot three separate times. Recently he got shot at a funeral. This one was not his fault. He went to a funeral and got all shot up. His friends got all shot up. In the book it reminds you, hang out with people who go where you want to go. Funerals, I told him don't go to the funeral. He went to the funeral, got all shot up again. He had a new record that went over to Flex today. I bet everybody's going to love it...I keep hearing his records on the radio. He ain't had a hit yet but he keeps getting better. I'm not even in his record business too much. I believe in him, but I really like the idea that he finally made it to college while all his friends made it to the grave. A lot of his friends made it to the grave, or unfortunately, in jail if they're not dead. But these are his ex-friends because he is finding new more positive [friends]. And he has been, obviously, gravitating towards the light.
This book, the best inspiration for it, had to be Jinx. I see it working with him. Even though I got Rush Foundation, the Art Foundation, the Hip Hop Summit, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, I have the Happy Arts Foundation, I help to support everybody's else's charities, and I have now the Diamond Empowerment Fund, all that s**t's good. All these people I love. I went and visited 3,500 Yogis in Africa and I need to raise money for them. They're not like my children. They are maybe, if somebody's successful, and if they read this book they could be. So I could maybe do more, because Jinx was hands on. If I didn't spend time with Jinx the way I did he'd be dead. I don't know if the book could do it alone. Maybe someone's listening and maybe it can. Hopefully I framed the obvious truth in a way that he can [understand]. You know what I mean. That's why I wrote it. I wrote it for Jinx.
SoundSlam: Aside from this I'm also a teacher. I teach elementary and high school students. At what age are people ready to read this book? Would you give some of these teachings to young kids?
Russell Simmons: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's written simple. I ain't too smart, so I ain't write it too smart. Kids in junior high school could even get through it and 9th grade. Some of the language is a little funny. I don't ever worry about language. I just realized I used the word 'n***a.' Somebody pointed it out. Brother Don Mohammad told me the word 'n***a's' in here.
SoundSlam: I think it's in chapter one or the introduction.
Russell Simmons: The Introduction?!? I couldn't prove to you I read this stuff, but I did it, it felt like I gave birth. I worked so hard on this thing. In the introduction? Trump's forward, it ain't in there?
SoundSlam: Not in his forward, but I think in the introduction.
Russell Simmons: Oh well s**t, that's language. I don't have a problem with language personally, and I don't want to. You find when you're around a bunch a people and you say the word, everybody gets mad, you don't want to use the word in front of them. This book is written, and I hope it can be digested, by people who might not read this kind of stuff. Right in front of me is the Yoga Sutras Pantangali...It's a 5,000 year-old book, which is really my best guide. It's 194 Sutras, and they're threads. They promote the idea of Sumati, which we call Christ consciousness if we're Christians or Nirvana if we're Buddhists. It's a very technical book. It's in Sanskrit, but all of the translations are in English of course. But that's only 30 or 40 years old, it's very simple. You can't give this s**t to no Jinx.
SoundSlam: Right, you need to make it so people will understand.
Russell Simmons: He don't even want to read "The Power of Now." He won't read that. This book, Jinx, I'm sure he can read, and I'm sure it can affect him. Not because he's my son, but because if he reads it all...So that's what it is. What do you think of the book by the way?
SoundSlam: I like it. Part of the reason I think I liked it though is because I've thought about a lot of these issues. One of the things I was going to ask you is if you the think the people that pick up the book and get into it are the people that have already had those thoughts?
Russell Simmons: A lot of times. Here's the thing about scripture. At four o'clock I'm going to see Ruth, amazing teacher. I'm supposed to take Wyclef today. Someone said, 'you're going to take him to Ruth?' Cause this girl Becca who's a Yogi and did the movie "Lockdown" Wyclef wants to go to Yoga, and we're taking him at 4. But Wyclef is a pretty evolved person, it doesn't make any difference to him, but Ruth is so sweet and happy. I took my man Andre Harrell to her class once and he just started laughing. She started telling the story about how she was in the car with a bunch of Krishnas and they started chanting as the cop pulled them over. Then the cops came and the vibe was so nice when the cops got there that the cops said, 'you can go ahead.' He was thinking, 'yeah, but it's a bunch of white b***es in the car. If it had been Us it wouldn't have went down.' So he felt uncomfortable with Ruth, who's always in India, always working with an evolved person, only thinks of God all the time. Just like brother Leo Mohammad in the next room, he's my security guard. The joke is whenever me and Rev see him and say 'what are you thinking about?' He'll say, 'God.' He only thinks about God, it's amazing.
The idea is to remember. So even if we are thinking about it, they say once you really are in full union with God you have no reason to be here because you see everything is perfect. You have no reason to change anything, you have no work to do. When Mother Teresa was kind of moving slow they would say, 'why are you smiling while all these people are dying at your feet, and you're helping the poor?' And she said, 'It's all God,' and kept doing her work blissful while all the people were suffering because she was starting to see the world in perfect order coming to the state of Christ Consciousness, the state of Sumati, of Nirvana. So everything is beautiful. You're working as quickly and as intelligently as possible, but you have no anxiety. You do just what's in front of you. So after a while you're not supposed to have any work to do because you're so absorbed in God. The point is, people who know sometimes want to be reminded. A lot of times people who do love God, or love the ideas, the principles, start to realize that they're true, they play them over and over again in their head because it's a devotional practice. That's why they chant God's name over and over and over again. So, we hope that a lot of people who would not read this...I hope that the CD will play in somebody's car. It will inspire somebody who will inspire somebody else
Imagine if this talk show host really likes the book. The one who changed the name...Rev said if you change someone's name, you marry them. If this person marries me, puts me on the show, promotes it cause I can't imagine they wouldn't since they changed the name, but maybe not, but maybe so...Imagine this book becomes a hit, better than all the s**t I did. All of these foundations, and I have a lot of charities, put them all together, and all the work I did may not have the same effect if I get this book in the hands of the right people. If it really affects them in some good way, maybe this will be the best thing I've done. That would be great.
I don't really want a lot of s**t. I looked at the new Maybach yesterday. I took my car, my Maybach, my midlife crisis car I call it, I pulled up into the new Maybach dealer and they said they wanted $310,00 on top of my car to give me a car that looks the same. Hahaha I said, 'Oh my God!' My drive kept saying, 'another buck kid, another buck kid.' It was not another buck, it was another $310,000. I didn't want to give them 100. Do I want toys? I drive around the corner, before I was around the corner I was in a different car...Are we happy in this moment, or are we not? We're breathing the same air as the billionaires, and as people struggling and it's really up to us to decide if we're struggling or we're happy. When we decide that we're happy, when we decide that we enjoy our work, we're better at working, we're better at making ourselves better vehicles and service people, that nine out of ten times promotes greater happiness. It's a cycle that you get into when you serve others. That's how you become a better businessman. You can do more work when you're not distracted or you don't have as much noise in your head.
SoundSlam: Right. That's what I got from reading it. You brought up something else that I wanted to talk about. You write about people having a fear of failure, or a fear of death. Do you think that people have a fear of success that holds them back? Maybe people are afraid that they can achieve all their dreams or goals, and then they won't know what to do with themselves?
Russell Simmons: That adds up to fear of failure. It's a fear of failure. [In Yoga] it says all of that is fear of death. Why? Because all of it is a belief that takes you away from God, a fear of death. But what you're referring to, fear of success, is fear of failure. It's fear of death. It's fear, basically noise in your head. There's always some noise. There's thousands of thoughts going on in your head. Imagine if you only had one, you could invent the atom. If you only had one thought, if you only had one thought you could actually focus on what you're looking at. So the seconds you can focus better than other seconds are the seconds when you can answers some questions properly, or do some things properly.
SoundSlam: You say in the book, 'Hip Hop's not just kids anymore. There are literally millions of people 35, 40, 50 that have spent half their lives listening to Hip Hop.' How do you see that being reflected in the music that's being made? It seems like a lot of the stars that are popular now are still young, and maybe getting younger?
Russell Simmons: Not all of that's true. You still got old guys that are still stars. Ice-T's on TV. Granted he never had that many hits, but we see Ice-T on TV. We see LL Cool J in movies. Will Smith's a movie star. Reverend Run's got Run's House. It's unbelievable how they've grown. They don't all have hit records. Ice Cube had an album that didn't sell that much, but it sounded like Ice Cube didn't it. Chuck D's album sounded like Chuck D. Run's album sounded like Run. It was unbelievable. There were less people interested in buying the music. I was in LA watching some guy play [Run's] "Mind On The Road," blasting it, head bobbing. I looked at the car. It was a 45 year-old man. He was so happy you couldn't believe it. It was like he was on a roller coaster. I couldn't believe that s**t. He was listening to "Mind On The Road." I didn't know I would hear that record again after nobody played it. But he was playing it like it was his favorite record of all time. He was in his childhood. So, the people who've grown up on Hip Hop, sometimes they'll listen to new stuff. But there are times when I want to listen to a Delfonics record.
SoundSlam: You use the example of Hip Hop artists selling CDs out of the trunks of their cars illustrating to not wait for someone else, and not accepting someone saying no, and to keep doing things yourself. With the innovations of technology, accessibility of the internet, and things like Myspace, how do you see the artist-record label relationship shifting and moving forward?
Russell Simmons: That's a good question. I hope that spirit that Hip Hop's bringing into the Black community, and all impoverished communities, cause everybody's following suit now, mostly Black people and in our ghettoes that we have this new entrepreneurial spirit of Hip Hop. People are also going to school with that same spirit now. I think I said that in the book. It's very important, and they'll create new ways. I have something that I have not talked to anybody about that I've been working on for over a year. You know, I had a Non-Compete when I did 360. There's something in creativity, entrepreneurship that will come from the street that will allow them greater freedom. These relationships they have with the record companies will...I don't know, you can't tell for sure, but it seems like a lot more people are going to be like Jim Jones. A lot more access to different avenues for them. I'm hopeful that will happen because I'd like for them to own a greater piece. I'd like them to figure out other ways to modernize music. But it's not something I've been focused on. I can't speak intelligently about it, but I do believe in their creativity. I do believe that there's more and more ways for them to manage and own their own process. They're trying to figure out ways to cut it off but they can't. There will be new ways all the time, new holes.
SoundSlam: When someone finishes this book, what do you want him or her to walk away with?
Russell Simmons: I want them to have faith that what they already knew is true, faith in themselves that they have great power in themselves. This book is a reminder of what you can do when you believe in yourself. There's lots of different avenues to conjure up and to use the power in you. This is one of the series of laws that promotes shortcuts. We know that prayer and mediation remind you how to connect. We want people to be able to use their inner strength greater. We hope people will walk away with a greater connection to themselves, or more faith that that process will lift them up. A lot of people are hopeless, disconnected from their higher self. We want people to be more connected.
Alexander Fruchter is the managing editor of SoundSlam.com, a teacher, and a DJ. Send any questions or comments to Alex@SoundSlam.com