In the latest episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Russell Simmons talks about Donald Trump, the science of happiness, and diversity in Hollywood.
The hip-hop mogul has known Donald Trump for 30 years, but the two haven’t spoken since Simmons said he would rather Kim Kardashian be president.
Simmons is deeply concerned with what this election has brought out in people across the country. “Donald Trump has said things that watered seeds of hate in people who might not have been so hateful only a few years ago,” he tells Fortune.
Simmons says he understands that people are suffering, and when people are suffering and frustrated, they look for someone to blame. He believes, however, that Trump has provided a scapegoat, and “has taken people who wouldn’t have thought some of these hateful ideas and made them actually speak those words and […] act on that energy.”
Trump’s campaign slogan could have been “Make America Racist Again,” Simmons added.
Simmons has publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, and is shocked that there is not more focus on the fact that the United States might have its first female president.
He also notes the lack of discussion around climate change
during this election. “The planet is at risk. It’s something the politicians haven’t discussed, as if it doesn’t exist.”
Simmons, a vegan for over 20 years, specifically cites the threat of American factory farming. “What’s the cost of animal product? Aside from making everybody sick and destroying the planet, it’s all of our natural resources,” he says.
Many people know Simmons as the godfather of hip-hop. His journey began with co-founding Def Jam in 1983, where he jump-started the careers of LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, and Public Enemy. Since then, Simmons has had numerous business ventures, including Rush Communications, where he is the CEO and chairman.
In addition, Simmons is a prominent activist and philanthropist. He is the co-founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and a New York Times bestselling author of, most recently, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life.
Another one of Simmons’ ventures coming this month is the All Def Comedy stand-up special, which debuts Nov. 12 on HBO. In a preview of sorts, Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital will broadcast a “roast of America” on Election Night on Fusion, featuring a variety of guests commenting on the election and the country in the spirit of Comedy Central’s franchise.
This is a familiar space for Simmons, as he produced Def Comedy Jam in the 1990s, providing a platform for African-American comedians such as Bernie Mac, Chris Rock, and Martin Lawrence. Simmons has always been an advocate for diversity, especially in Hollywood.
“The integration of culture is an explosion,” he says. “It’s so much fun. And that’s what America is about. That’s where the success comes in.”
A longtime practicing yogi, Simmons considers himself a “business yogi,” as he believes business can be an agent for positive change. He is opening a devotional yoga studio at the end of this month. Simmons says he leads his businesses the way he leads his life: with compassion, mindfulness, and integrity. Having said that, this episode is truly unfiltered. Please note: there is language that may be offensive to some listeners.