Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons has reached a point where he may well fit his own definition of success: "The state of needing nothing." But the founder of Def Jam, Phat Farm and Rush Communications is not resting on his laurels. He's written a book that is on the New York Times best-seller list, Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All, and he has supported Rabbi Marc Schneier's efforts to improve relations between Jews and Arabs.
And yet, the hip-hop entrepreneur stands by his assertion that Louis Farrakhan is his second father. "He's a great hero of mine. He has been overlooked by African Americans." He says that he is aware of Farrakhan's rift with the Jewish community. "You can like anyone you want," he says. "You're not guilty because you know someone and like them. They don't have to like your other friends."
On the global impact of hip-hop: "What's about hip-hop that the whole world likes — people here in America, that many of them don't like — is it tells the truth," says Simmons. Of the attacks on hip-hop, he says, "Poets have always suffered the same kind of criticism for saying what's in the heart of many people. This is what the rappers have done."
He was interviewed for The Root by our editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr.