True Dat


Russell Simmons: He is 45, wears a white baseball cap, a T-shirt with the words "40 Acres and a Bentley" on the back and a sweat suit manufactured by the $300 million clothing company, Phat Farm, he started a decade ago. Russell, teeth as white and big as freshly minted tombstones, is a man of extreme wealth, much of it made from the founding, and eventual selling, of Def Jam Records, the influential rap label that was home to Run-DMC, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Slick Rick and, later, Jay-Z and Ja Rule. He is also a political activist, having founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network in 2001. Russell, creator of HBO's Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam, is also involved with the National Urban League and a political ally of Benjamin Chavis, Hillary Clinton and Al Sharpton, among others, which doesn't stop him from criticizing his friends when he believes they have done wrong.

Joe "Run" Simmons: He is 38 but already a weary veteran of the streets and the stage. Since 1982, he has been best known as Run, one half of the pioneering rap duo Run-DMC, which he co-founded with Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jam Master Jay. Their albums include King of Rock and Raising Hell, the first rap album to go platinum. After a spiritual awakening several years ago, he became "Rev. Run," and though he recently toured with Run-DMC, opening for Kid Rock and Aerosmith, the band is likely finished. He dresses in all black, still sports a wide-brim fedora and drinks Pinot Grigio. He will antagonize his brother, who will return the favor, but their love for each other is evident.

Journalist: He is 33, bald, bespectacled and very white. He says little throughout the production, letting his tape recorder do most of the work.

SETTING: The entire production takes place on a patio outside the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Las Colinas. Russell and Run are in Dallas for a Hip-Hop Summit, but also to go to a local mall to promote a new line of Phat Farm tennis shoes. It is a crisp fall afternoon. Stage right, a table of white golfers dine, waiting for their tee time.


A well-dressed hotel manager, aware of who Russell is, arrives to take his order. Russell spends four minutes ordering his meal of pasta primavera, a green-vegetable shake, a fruit smoothie and vegetarian patties. At the same time, he is on his cell phone. We do not know to whom he is speaking, but a woman's voice can be heard on the other end, laughing.

RUSSELL (into phone): What's so funny? Hell, you probably go to lunch and order an elephant's asshole. All right, I gotta go do an interview. (Hangs up phone. Speaks to Journalist.) We all have a natural affinity for meat. We watch TV, they teach us a lot of bullshit, we live by it. It is good to try to reach for guidance. Anything running from you and you gotta catch that motherfucker to eat it? It's not right.

JOURNALIST: Did you start being a vegan when you started doing yoga?

RUSSELL: Yeah. About seven, eight years ago. At least. A year later, probably. I started being a vegetarian then, then a little right after that went vegan. It's funny. I got a lot of people going to yoga, and they immediately become vegans. I think that I'm spending more time around my friends who are interested in their spirituality.

Run approaches. He takes off his hat and places it on table.

RUSSELL (to Run): Took off the collar. Are you looser?

RUN: You want my collar back on?

RUSSELL: No. Why? You spoke well at the summit. I should be there now. Ben Chavis has been to yoga every single day. He's lost 30 pounds. He was first a famous Christian minister, very positive and powerful...

RUN (interrupting): Christian? And then he went Muslim? I didn't know.

RUSSELL: He was Reverend Ben Chavis when you met him and he booked you to do Rap the Vote years ago and he almost got fired.

RUN: He'll go back.

RUSELL: To what? Christ?

RUN: Of course. And Minister Louis Farrakhan is coming back. He wants to. They know. It's all the same. Whatever. One God.

RUSSELL: You say "one God," why you gotta convert 'em then? Why don't you let them do they thing?

RUN: I ain't convertin' them. They keep saying they're coming back.

RUSSELL: I never heard that.

RUN: You know I'm a one-God man.

RUSSELL: How about they all quit that and become...

RUN (interrupting): Yogis like you, right?! We'll all be standing on our heads and lettin' the blood rush.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky