Russell Simmons Vs. Capitol Hill


Simmons, tired of hearing lawmakers

diss Hip-Hop music, attended a meeting held by

the Senate Government Affairs Committee yesterday.

The meeting, which also included various representatives

from different Genre's of the entertainment field

including the RIAA's Hillary Rosen and MPAA's

Jack Valenti.


requested a seat on one of the panels testifying

before the committee, but was denied the seat

by committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

Lieberman said several times during the hearing

he hadn't been able to accommodate Simmons because

the final lineup of witnesses had already been

determined, yet video game industry representative

Doug Lowenstein, was added as a witness late Tuesday.

Simmons sat through 5 hours of testimony and then

spoke out.


of the songs you find offensive are actually reflections

of a reality that needs to be expressed," he said.

Lawmakers continuously brought up the often graphic

nature of Hip-Hop, and Rosen had entered into

the record some comments that Simmons had prepared.

Simmons accused lawmakers of racial and cultural



of us feel that these hearings are really about

us, and it would be better in our view to hear

from us and speak to us directly before you pass

judgment and deny our fundamental rights," Simmons

said. He continued by saying that Lawmakers and

critics of Hip-Hop miss the message behind the

profanity-laced lyrics, yet those same lyrics

can also have a positive effect. "The plight

of kids who live in Compton now is a lot clearer

to the kids who live in Beverly Hills," he told

the panel.


Senators objected to the thought that the meetings

contained racial overtones. "The notion that this

is racially targeted is not only invalid, but

it hurts those of us who are trying to protect

the First Amendment rights of artists," said Sen.

Fred Thompson, an actor and the committee's senior

Republican. Simmons clarified that he wasn't trying

to pull the race card during the meeting.


saying that there's a lack of understanding and

cultural references," he said. "There's a lack

of appreciation of the cultural forces. They're

more fearful of the black kids that came out of

the ghetto."