An Open Letter to the Recording Industry

Respecting the Living

Legacy of Def Jam: An Open Letter to the Recording Industry from Russell Simmons

In a recent Newsweek

article by Johnnie Roberts, appropriate questions were raised not only about

the future of Def Jam, but also about the future of the recording industry's

relationship with the creative genius of hip-hop culture. The enduring legacy

of Def Jam is that from the very beginning we were focused on building stability

for the lives and careers of our artists as well as making hit music that authentically

represented hip-hop culture.

My quotes in the

piece by Roberts were not aimed at disparaging or discounting the value and

potential for L.A. Reid to profitably lead Def Jam. My concerns, however, are

about the future of Def Jam and the industry as a whole as to whether the legacy

that Def Jam established will be maintained to the benefit of the artists and

the culture.

Let¹s remember

when LL Cool J first came to Def Jam, he was a runaway at the age of 15. Our

first priority for LL was to work to nurture and sustain him as a gifted and

talented young man. Now over 21 years later LL represents the best of what hip-hop

can do for a young man coming out of struggle. He has become a beacon of light

for families and communities out of the darkness of poverty.

When artists face

trying and difficult life circumstances, will the executives of the industry

today care or give a damn about the actual lives of artists outside the studio?

I told Chuck D

that his mouth was his Uzi and his words of truth were his bullets. We defend

Public Enemy's rightful place in the genre. I would like to think we helped

Chuck D define his career. During the time Slick Rick was unjustly incarcerated,

Def Jam executives helped lead the national and international campaign with

his devoted wife, Mandy, to secure his freedom from a Florida prison.

Recently Kevin

Liles, Rev Run and I visited Shyne in prison. Will the new transition team at

Def Jam see Shyne for the potential he has to become a Spiritual Prophet as

he defines himself or will he be reduced to the thug that the street is racing

to define him as. Will Shyne become Tupac (a) or Tupac (b), dead or alive? The

truth is Tupac was worth more alive than dead. But, my guess is there are some

industry executives who are not too sure about that fact.

As we worked to

broker a peace between Ja Rule and 50 Cent, there were some who thought it was

a fruitless exercise and even worked against the national television broadcast

aimed at bringing the parties together for dialogue. Those in opposition felt

that the broadcast might compromise the record selling potential of one or both

of the artists.

We prevailed and the broadcast was well received across the nation. It is important

to me that today Chris Lighty is serving as a good role model who mentors young

men and women whenever he gets a chance.

Irv Gotti came

to my house last Saturday night and when he saw Chris Lighty he gave him a hug.

Irv thanked me for bringing them together and for nurturing their ongoing dialogue.

Yet, the best thanks I can receive is the knowledge that Irv will continue to

be a great teacher and mentor for the young millionaires he is developing.

Almost all of

the artists in hip-hop come from situations of extreme poverty and when money

is put in their pockets, it is also important and responsible to help them erase

the poverty of their mindsets.

No one owes an

artist anything but a fair record deal, marketing and promotions. But Def Jam

always in the past worked hard to offer more. The question that I have for the

industry is what will you do to support the evolution of the collective consciousness

of hip-hop?

Will you water

the good seeds that have been planted? As you make future decisions, if you

do not have P. Diddy, Master P, or Damon Dash at your table, who will you use

to effectively mentor these up and coming young artists?

If Damon Dash

sells his company, who will be at Vivendi to show Kanye West the ropes? Who

will look after Cam'ron and Beanie Sigel?

How does Vivendi

and the industry in general plan to maximize the gifts of an Irv Gotti?

What about Earl

Simmons (DMX)?

I am asking these

questions to hopefully further sensitize an industry that is contemplating its

future. I wish nothing but success for L.A. Reid and Def Jam. This generation

of today's hip-hop artists are some of the most talented ever and most committed

in their giving back to our communities.

They all deserve our best guidance and support.

What will Shyne

come home to?