By Cornell Dews
Like many people, I viewed the Lyor Cohen Breakfast Club interview aired on Tuesday August 1, 2018. For those unaware Mr. Cohen is a Hip Hop impresario and executive with over three decades of influence on the genre. He’s also the same individual who has been accused of “breaking up” the ROC aka Roc-A-Fella Records. Now if I have to explain to you who Roc-A-Fella was, you shouldn’t be reading this Hip Hop editorial on this Hip Hop oriented website. Shame on you.
During his interview Mr. Cohen said some pretty interesting things. But I only watched for one thing in particular. And that was for him to be asked the question about being called a “culture vulture.” Throughout the years, Dame Dash, one third of the founding members of Roc-A-Fella Records has always referred to Lyor Cohen as a “culture vulture.” It’s a very disparaging accusation. And I truly believe that at times people found it hard to actually define, so it seemed non-descript in its meaning. Or the definition varied. People would ask the question, “What exactly is a culture vulture”? Then we’d hear, “Well ain’t everyone capitalizing off and raping the industry for their personal gain”? Then of course people would say, “Dame Dash is just mad because he’s broke.” To which I suggest to people to be mindful that there is a distinct difference between being “broke” and being “broken.” And even though I don’t know Mr. Dash personally, based on my observations, I doubt if Dame is either. But I digress because this is about Lyor Cohen actually confirming for me during his interview the accuracy of Damon Dash claim.
It was late in the interview when it started to get a little dicey. And surprisingly it was Angela Yee who had the gall and fortitude to push it there. The obvious surprise is that it wasn’t Charlamagne who initiated it. Angela Yee asked Lyor Cohen a question about signing talented artist battling their own substance abuse issues. Does talent outweigh personal issues? Lyor alluded that in his opinion “talent does outweigh personal issues.” Then Charlamagne asked, “Why sign an artist who would promote drug use?” To that Lyor replied, “Talent or issues? I say talent.” “Isn’t that hypocritical though,” Charlamagne asked. “It’s opportunistic. Yeah. I got people to feed. I got a business to run,” retorted Mr. Cohen.
With those words alone, Mr. Cohen confirmed for me himself that Dame Dash was right again with his proclamation. And if you think for a second that he was inaccurate after reading this editorial or watching the interview, allow me to paint this picture for you:
A black executive in Rock music. Pillaging the spoils from the culture for his own personal gain and wealth. Able to go to the country clubs and play golf with financiers and other powerful people off the dimes earned on the backs of predominantly white people, who aren’t nearly as privileged. Three decades plus of success. And he amassed so much power that the “white” people who created the genre were too scared to oppose him in any kind of way because of fear of being ”blackballed.” A black executive with the power and influence to dismantle, I don’t know, let’s say umm the Dixie Chicks (sorry Jay, Biggs & Dame – not the best comparison, but you get my drift). And when asked the question about talent superseding life threatening personal issues in his decision to work with and promote acts who aren’t just negatively impacting their own lives, but are also leading to the ruin of a generation of young people who do not look like him. He responds by saying, “I’m opportunistic. I got people to feed. I got a business to run.” I ask, “What would he be called?” Shid, let’s be honest, he’d probably be called something far worse than a “culture vulture.”
Once again, thank you Dame.