Russell Simmons: Hip-hop’s been dying or dead every single year since its inception. So as long as it’s eight of the top eight downloads last week, I feel it’s not dead. It still has a tremendous influence in American pop culture; it’s still the greatest brand building community in the world. They have all kinds of inspiration and influence for American mainstream, they made the President by shifting race dialogue, when Run DMZ got on MTV there were no black people at all except Michael Jackson, and they changed a lot in America and the way people see each other. Jay-Z’s not dead, as far as I can tell, artists last. LL Cool J is on a number one show. Ice-T’s not dead; he’s 45.
I’m 51, I’ve got new businesses that are hip hop-related, and they’re growing. I don’t feel hip hop is dead. I don’t feel there are any good signs that would say that. I guess young people do download quicker than people who might buy a Whitney Houston record or something, but that’s just what they do. Hip-hop is being consumed as much now as ever and that’s an important statement and it has as much affect on American mainstream culture now as ever, and that’s another good statement. So, it’s hard to predict the death of a cultural phenomenon that’s transformed America in so many ways.
Recorded on October 27, 2009