As co-founder of Def Jam, Hip Hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons has worked with a number of artists over the past few decades. While speaking with Hot 97 recently, Simmons revealed that he’s still on good terms with the majority of the artists from Def Jam’s early years.
Before the businessman rattled down the list of artists he still speaks with, he was asked to share his biggest disappointment concerning present-day Def Jam. According to Simmons, his biggest disappointment stems from seeing artists not reaching their full potential at the label. He then named Yonkers rapper DMX as the number one artist who didn’t achieve greatness.
Simmons’ discussion on artists not reaching their full potential later transformed into a conversation on entourages and the negative effects they can sometimes have on artists.
“Things that disappoint me are people that didn’t get to achieve all their greatness in some cases,” Simmons said. “Like I’ve experienced watching brilliant artists not become all they could have been. DMX is the number one I can think of. Cause he was brilliant…He was just amazing. And he said amazing stuff. And he was a great vocalist. And a great artist and a great everything. And, you know, people make choices that make it more difficult for them to continue to be great. And some make choices that make them make it easier to continue to be great. And I’ve seen many people and their entourages destroyed them. And I’ve seen people who have had to shed some of their entourage in order to keep going. My entourage that [I] kinda needed to shed died [or] went to jail.”
Although Simmons did reveal that he still speaks to everyone who was signed to Def Jam while he was active at the label, he specifically mentioned Alyson Williams, Oran “Juice” Jones, Q-Tip, Method Man, and Redman, during his interview with Hot 97.
“Yeah, I fucks with everybody still,” he said. “There's some that made it. And I still love Alyson Williams She made like three or five hits, I don’t know. And Oran ‘Juice’ Jones is my man. I fucks with him on the regular. He sang the dopest songs. [They were] before their time…Some artists became more friendly like my friends. You know? I’m still friends with Q-Tip. Like I still fucks with some of the same people on the regular. I see Redman I just give him a hug. I love him so much. I see Method Man I give him a hug…I don’t have no artists I’m not friends with. Really. None.”
Along with Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons founded Def Jam in the early ‘80s. In addition to his work at Def Jam, Simmons co-produced the 1985 film Krush Groove, has released a handful of books including “Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All,” and is currently an animal and environmental activist.