Russell Simmons: Toy Story

You don’t interview Russell Simmons, you just hang on for the ride. The mogul’s mind travels a mile a minute, and he switches from anecdotes to small-talk to revelations to advice.

Just days before appearing on Oprah, Simmons, sitting across the desk from his brother Reverend Run, discusses his book Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success. His second book is an offering of the 12 rules Russell says guided him throughout his 49 year journey to the top of the Hip-Hop game.

Professing charity, positive company and constant elevation (all laws in the book), Simmons tells AllHipHop.com how the project came to fruition, its guidance from Oprah (who Simmons all but mentions by name), and a discussion on toys and charities alike. Do you in order to get it done.

AllHipHop.com: What’s going on, Russ?

Russell Simmons: So I got my first copy of my book [Do You] yesterday. The name has been changed because a very famous talk show host told me to change the name. We went and burned 150,000 copies ‘cause she said so. I was shocked. The title she gave me was better than [original title] The Laws of Success; she gave me Do You.

It’s about the inner-voice. It’s an offering that I thought, after doing the thing on the radio so often, that [people needed]. It’s the same science that your mama taught you, or Lord Buddah, Abraham, Muhammad – it’s the same thing. Only, I think the secret in the Holy books isn’t discussed enough in my view. Where’s the source of all this power? That’s the thing that you have to connect to. The book’s a lot about that, and also scenarios – stories about drugs and girls and stuff, I don’t know, little stuff that makes examples better. It’s not about me, but there are examples in there. It’s just a book, and it’s coming out. I think it could be a good gift to the Hip-Hop community because it’s basically about how powerful they are and how can they use their strength. If I can do that with my life, it’s better than all the charities and businesses I could build.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of people, myself included, bought Life and Def trying to get some of your wisdom before…

Russell Simmons: I think when I wrote Life and Def, I wrote it a stage where I was just started to recognize that…it’s about me! Life and Def is about me. Really, what I did was not by me. It was done by my connection that truth. Reverend Run is sitting right in front of me right now, and [we’re] talking about, “What is that truth? Where does that strength come from?” Now, I wanted to write something that was a lot less about me and a lot more about everyone. My examples, they’re good examples of what we’re talking about, because that’s how I see those laws working. The laws work. The science of happiness is true; you can’t get away from it. There’s nothing different in my book that hasn’t already been said. If anybody reads something in my book and it’s not something that they know instinctively, then it’s not true and the book’s bulls**t. You have all this information stored inside you, and [the book] is a reminder. If you remember these things then you can get a lot of toys and be rich and do whatever you want. That’s what we’re trying to promote here.

AllHipHop.com: What do you weigh higher, happiness or success?

Russell Simmons: Happiness is success; there’s no such thing as success without happiness. You ain’t successful, n***a, if you ain’t happy. How is it possible? I think you can get toys and be very sad. You may not want the new stretch [Rolls Royce] Phantom, though Rev just got one – made me think of it. I went to go see the new Maybachs. They said [in order for me to get one,] they wanted my [current] Maybach plus $310,000. I said, “You keep that motherf**ker.” It looks exactly the same too. The point is you don’t need certain things, but it’s okay to get toys. The book pushes the idea of Cosmic Economics, an idea that [Reverend Run’s] bishop always talks about. The idea of being positive, the idea of moving towards your goals, and the idea of achieving whatever the hell it is that you want to achieve.

AllHipHop.com: To what extent is this exclusively for Hip-Hop; you’ve got a forward from Donald Trump…

Russell Simmons: It’s 100% Hip-Hop. All my s**t is Hip-Hop. All my experiences, all my examples are Hip-Hop. It’s written for Jinx Da Juvy; in my mind, the book is written for Jinx Da Juvy. That’s my son. He keeps getting shot, but he’s back on his feet again; they took his pins out yesterday. [Sighs] He’s in college now. I’ve seen him grow ‘cause I’ve been mentoring him since he was 15, when I first met him. He had been shot; he was living in Brooklyn and signed to Def Jam. He got dropped; he’d been through a lot of s**t. He got shot two more times. This time he got shot visiting a friend’s funeral. He’s in school, still recording and still makin’ records that we hear every so often on the radio. I think he’s gonna have his success. But I think his inspiration is probably the best inspiration I got for writing the book. I see him – his friends keep getting killed and he keeps growing to a better human being. I think that’s basically because of the discussions we have almost everyday. I figured if I can do that with Jinx, maybe I can do that with more people.

AllHipHop.com: Why 12 chapters? How long had you determined this?

Russell Simmons: That’s all the chapters I had. I don’t know. I was on the radio everyday for three or four years doing “The Hip-Hop Laws of Success.” That was the original title of the book when they bought it, ‘cause that was the radio show. I took “Hip-Hop” off it, ‘cause I felt that was too limiting. Most people already know I’m already connected somehow to the community. When the woman – you know what woman I mean too; I don’t want to say, but when she gave me the title. Her personal feeling about the book made me feel like I did the right thing. She’s read all this kinda stuff.

AllHipHop.com: Looking at success and achievement, I wanted to ask you for a question. All day long people I’m sure hit you up for money and help. The lasting greats seem self-made. Do you think it breaks the code of Hip-Hop to ask for help?

Russell Simmons: I don’t think it breaks the code of Hip-Hop for nothin’. I think you should ask for whatever you want. What’s interesting about Hip-Hop too is, if you tell me the name of a rapper, I’ll tell you his charity. Recently, I went four for four with a woman from Jet.

They said Nelly. I said For Sure For Kids.

They said Ludacris. The Ludacris Foundation, that’s easy.

They said Jay-Z. The Shawn Carter Foundation, that’s easy.

Then she asked me something crazy – Chingy. I said Chingy For Change.

All of ‘em got a charity. They all give back. Shady Foundation. G-Unity. Everybody got somethin’. They all give. As much as they give, they know how to receive; that’s why they’re getting so much paper. The cycle of giving is very present, awake, alive in Hip-Hop. The recognition, that’s what it is. Of all the cultural phenomenon people have seen, they’ve never seen a group of human beings give as much as Hip-Hop. They all gettin’ plenty paper too. I saw Swizz Beatz the other day; he pulled up in his Phantom. He was talking about all his business. I couldn’t even digest all the s**t that he was doing. He’s just one example. Every day I bump into somebody that’s doing some new s**t that ain’t got nothin’ to do with music. Everything has to do with the culture and connection to the community.

AllHipHop.com: What’s going on with the label lately?

Russell Simmons: It looks like Short [Dawg] is staying with Jermaine [Dupri]. Jermaine loves Short. I’ve still got Dro. It takes a minute! The difference between this and signing groups that are already hot is the whole process of developing groups, which I like. Jinx has a record that he’s taking to [Funkmaster] Flex tonight. [Russell raps in a low, screwed up tone] “Strong enough to carry Biggie Smalls on my back.” He played the s**t real loud in my office about a week ago and I fell out. I think Big Phil’s working the record right now, starting today. I’ve been watching Jinx for his whole life; I never worked his record intentionally. Then he came out with this record. I used to say, “Go to school. Leave me alone about your rap career.” I never signed him. Now recently, I keep watching him get better; he’s 21 now! Seven years I’ve been working with him. Can you imagine being 14, they put a bullet in his leg? I’m still doing some of it, but it’s not my main focus. The Diamond Empowerment is my new charity. Simmons Jewelry is all these stores – Zale’s and Kay’s and Gordon’s; that’s doing very, very well. I’ve been working very hard to try and be a partner to AllHipHop and everybody else. I’ve got a new venture that I’m going to announce very, very soon.

Do You is the access. How do you trust people? How do we build companies? How do we build peaceful relationships with the world that make us happy? At the end, happiness is the key to success. F**k success if you can’t be happy! You’d have a bunch of sad billionaires. In the environment we live in, there’s only way to get worldly success – and that’s a good approach to getting toys.

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