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Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons
(Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic)

Russell Simmons' 'Breakfast Club' Appearance Was a Disaster

In his latest interview on The Breakfast Club Simmons speaks about the HBO documentary On The Record and his numerous sexual assault allegations.

"He's the king of hip-hop. I’ve been a victim for 22 years, I’m tired of being a victim,” former Def Jam Records A&R executive Drew Dixon says in HBO’sOn The Record. Directed by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the documentary details Dixon's decision to come forward with her allegations against Russell Simmons

Three years ago, Dixon, former Def Jam employee Sil Lai Abrams, and Sheri Sher of pioneering rap group Mercedes Ladies accused Simmons of sexual abuse. Simmons has vehemently denied the accusations but does not appear in On The Record, which was released via HBO Max on May 27. Whether you decide to watch the film or not, it's important to know that according to theACLU, 22 percent of Black women in the United States have experienced rape. The report also notes when abuse occurs "they are less likely to be believed or supported."

Today, Simmons publicly addressed his thoughts on the documentary and the accusers in an interview with The Breakfast Club. From the very beginning of the interview, he hid behind his spirituality and his affluent lifestyle which involves traveling between Bali and America. He also chose to lead the interview with the recent death of his close friend, music executive Andre Harrell. According to the Time's Up Foundation, Simmons has been accused of assaulting at least 15 women. 

To be clear, this successful radio show has a history of providing space fortoxic masculinity and transphobic language to flourish. Simmons' Breakfast Club interview exposes the cracks in the hip-hop community and the entertainment community at large. The hosts, Charlemagne, Angela Yee, DJ Envy didn't hold him accountable, instead, they gave Simmons space to continue carving his narrative that the assaults didn't happen and that he was merely a "playboy." The mood was a bit off-putting, it came across as a bit unserious even as he spoke on the numerous assault allegations. Not only is this dangerous, it also happens time and time again in Black America. These perceptions are why Black women are targets for abuse and also reluctant to come forward when they are abused, per theACLU.

Currently, living in Bali, the ex hip-hop mogul expressed that he was originally elated when he found out Oprah Winfrey was attached to the project since she is an “investigative journalist.” Five months ago Winfrey, who was the original executive producer for the documentary stepped down from the exec producer role. She also had her name removed from the credits, each of these actions reportedly happened due to creative differences between Winfrey and the film’s directors. Prior to her removal, the film was set to premiere exclusively on Apple TV+.

Later in the interview, he shared:

"I'm guilty of having underwritten, supported, made the soundtrack for, taken advantage of, and living in a grossly unjust society. I helped write the song 'I'm a Ho' with Houdini... I made the movie 'How To Be a Player' and Bill Bellamy played me."

He went on to add, "So I know what I'm guilty of and I've been unconscious as a playboy. Today the title [that's] appropriate is womanizer, so I'm guilty of that. Back then I thought it was a game." Simmons later said, "I was insensitive but I wasn’t a mind reader." He also tried to explain he was a womanizer, not an abuser.

During another moment in the interview, Simmons touched on police reform and being a part of the entertainment industry as a Black man in Def Jam's early years. These are fitting topics as Sil Lai Abrams touched on being a Black woman and coming forward with her story of assault and finally naming Simmons.

In a recent interview withThe Wrap Abrams said, “As a black woman, I can’t separate racism from sexism... One of the challenges that happens within the movement for black lives is that far too often, the experiences of black women are pushed to the side in favor of the dominant narrative around our race.”

After the interview aired, Abrams took to Twitter to address her thoughts on The Breakfast Club interview. On Simmons saying the incidents were from "25 to 40 years ago" she wrote: 

"I wrote about the rape in my first and second books. 2007 and 2016 respectively. The rape occurred in 1994. My first book was published in 2007. It took me 13 years to share my story-albeit withholding your name because I didn’t want my platform connected with his. Do better math."

"I'd already proven people wrong by making hit records by the time the assault happened," Drew Dixon said in a recent feature in Shondaland. "What I was not prepared for was to be raped. That just absolutely destroyed me — to be raped by somebody who was also my champion, who literally fought with Lyor Cohen to let me pursue my idea for the Mary J. Blige-Method Man duet [‘You’re All I Need’]."

Lai Abrams noted that it was a "profoundly personal decision" for her and other survivors on how they share their stories. On the documentary, she added:

"If a viewer were to close her eyes and listen to our stories, listen to the struggle of navigating a toxic workplace, of being alone, drunk with someone you considered a friend, or seeking advice from a man who claims that he can advance your career, that if you don’t look at our faces, I hope that they can resonate with the larger message and realize that this film is a love letter to all black women and that I see all of us."

For more details on HBO Max's documentary On The Record, take a look at the clips below. You can watch the entire Breakfast Club interview here.