Martini Rox: Politicking with Russell Simmons and Dennis KucinichWritten by Martini Rox | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell Simmons is many things, but it is clear that he is not a politician. Affectionately known as the “Godfather of Hip-Hop,” business mogul Simmons made his mark in music by co-founding Def Jam with Rick Rubin; together they pioneered a musical genre. Through his company Rush Communications, he dominated urban fashion through his clothing companies Phat Farm and Baby Phat. He is an author and has produced television shows such as “Def Comedy Jam” and “Def Poetry.”
On March 3, Simmons used his star muscle to influence the Hip-Hop heads in Toledo to vote for 9th District candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Scott High School was the perfect backdrop, an historic landmark for the main political event. At press time, Kucinich of Cleveland was running against Toledo’s Rep. Marcy Kaptur and decided to bring out the big guns when he campaigned in her district. Toledoans from the Old West End and around the city were drawn to the “politics meets music” gathering.
When Simmons and Kucinich entered the room, the energy surged and a melee began as people clamored to get a photo with Simmons before or after quietly listening to his every word.
The Hip-Hop mogul was passionate about keeping the representative he feels helps out those in need of basics like health care. Simmons voiced his views against politicians being paid for their political positions and the unfair tax laws that support the wealthy. He also adamantly stated that he would never back a political entity, but his reason for joining Kucinich on the campaign trail was simple,
“I’m here to protect the single most important congressman in this country.”
With Simmons (and the congressman’s wife, Elizabeth), Kucinich captured the attention of the younger Hip-Hop generation.
Kucinich voiced his opposition to the interaction between big business and politics and the use of big money to help propel other politicians’ campaigns.
Naturally, I had to ask Simmons and Kucinich questions on the majority of the urban community’s mind.
Martini Rox: What is your connection to Congressman Kucinich?
Russell Simmons: Well, for one thing I don’t have the connection; it seems like every other politician has with the business community, that they support them and pay their bills and they make them do things that (don’t) empower the poor. He doesn’t have that kind of connection with anybody; that’s why I’m connected to him.
Rox: Congressman Kucinich, is it safe to say you are a Hip-Hop Head considering you are hanging with Russell Simmons?
Dennis Kucinich: I’m a Hip-Hop fan, absolutely.
Rox: Across our city many struggle to gain and retain employment, how do you plan to help Toledo and surrounding areas with jobs?
Kucinich: I am someone who has taken a very strong position on a job creation program where we take the power of the Federal Reserve to make money out of nothing. The government uses that power. Actually, the Federal Reserve got the power from the government now the government needs to reclaim it to create jobs to put people back to work.
Rox: Mr. Simmons, how important do you feel it is for the Hip-Hop generation to come out and vote Tuesday?
Simmons: Ten out of 11 people go to jail for drugs and you’re 10 times more likely if you’re African American, to go to jail for the same crime, [or if you] are people of color. What does that mean? If 10 out of 11 go to jail for drugs and whites and blacks use and sell at the same rate, you have these nonviolent criminals going to jail and the reason they are going to jail in part is because the politicians are paid by the prison industrial complex a total of $20 million and they pay back to the industrial complex many billions of dollars by incarcerating people.
Rox: How do you plan to convince young voters of the Hip-Hop generation in Toledo to vote for you?
Kucinich: I am about jobs and education for all. I want an America where there’s free college. Every young person should be able to go to a free public college or university. People say “Well, where are you going to get the money?” And I say, ‘Let’s stop spending money on war, let’s start taking care of things at home, let’s start creating jobs here at home.’
Rox: Mr. Simmons, what do you feel is missing at the moment in Hip-Hop music? Political commentary?
Simmons: I think political commentary is important, but you know what we need is a consciousness in our community; the poetry will reflect the truth. It’s nice if we have poets to head up the community that may become big, because of a melody. A good melody can carry any idea but it’s important that a community raises its consciousness and the rappers will reflect that truth. We don’t have enough political commentary in our poetry, but it’s not the poets’ job; it’s the people’s job to inspire so what becomes commercial is a reflection of (the) people.
As we continue on …