By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) kicks off Black Music Appreciation Month with an exclusive interview with Def Jam founder Russell Simmons.
The renowned music and business icon joined the Black Press of America for a live interview at 7 p.m.on June 1.
The interview was live streamed at http://www.facebook.com/blackpressusa/live.
Created in 1979 by a decree from President Jimmy Carter, Black Music Appreciation Month celebrates the African-American musical influences that comprise an essential part of our nation’s treasured cultural heritage, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Formerly called National Black Music Month, this celebration of African-American musical contributions is re-established annually by presidential proclamation, museum officials noted.
Throughout the month, the Black Press is expected to welcome many influential and up and coming artists to participate in interviews and live streams in observance of National Black Music Appreciation Month.
On June 1, Simmons discussed his role in the birth of hip hop, including his involvement with the legendary Def Jam Records and groundbreaking artists RUN DMC, Kurtis Blow, Salt-N-Pepper, Eric B and Rakim and Public Enemy. He also discussed his relationships with today’s biggest stars, including Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West and 50 Cent.
Simmons is the Godfather of hip hop’s global evolution as a transcendent cultural phenomenon that continues to expand and positively impact the lives of millions throughout the world.
Simmons’ contribution to music is sometimes understated. In 1983, he co-founded Def Jam Recordings which quickly became the most successful Black-owned record label in America.
Its success was underscored by artists like the Beastie Boys, whose 1986 “Licensed to Ill” album became the first rap LP to hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The Def Jam family included RUN DMC, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, JAY-Z, Slick Rick, DMX, Kanye West and hundreds of other artists.
LL Cool J, for example, went on to star in motion pictures including the big screen production of S.W.A.T., and he maintains a lead role on the hit television show, NCIS: Los Angeles. JAY Z, RUN DMC, Kanye West, and others are still making tremendous contributions to global society today.
Public Enemy, and its lead MC Chuck D, fought alongside Stevie Wonder and others to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday. The musicians, comedians and poets that came under Russell’s wing have won numerous awards coming from all the artistic academies, and too many social and political and community organizations’ awards to delineate.
Simmons parlayed his music, film and television success into freedom-fighting and social movements; including supporting the successful mobilization and organization of the “Million Man March,” and the “HipHop Summit Action Network.”
He’s also created social justice demonstrations and marches, and he negotiated changes and reforms of the repressive Rockefeller Drug laws in New York. Simmons backed many groundbreaking-movements like the Prison Policy Initiative, a criminal justice reform public policy think tank that produced authentic research that helped to expose the broader harm of mass incarceration in the United States.
Devoted to a life of yoga, Simmons has said that yoga and meditation helps him to be able to be present in each moment, and to see how he can better serve the needs of the world for change and transformation. His stated mission is to “to improve the quality of life for all humanity. With great love, all things are possible.”