Russell Simmons: The Yogi Path From Hip Hop Mogul To Happy Vegan

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“It’s okay to get along with people you disagree with; in fact, it’s critical that we all try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes because I believe we all have the same hopes, desires. We are all inspired by the same kinds of things—we want to love and be loved.”

Russell Simmons


It’s rare to find a pop culture icon as devoted to raising consciousness as the man they call Rush.

Hip hop impresario, entrepreneur extraordinaire, devoted yogi and long-time meditation practitioner, Russell Simmons is truly one-of-a-kind — incredibly warm, always quick with a captivating story you won’t soon forget and authentically committed to spreading awareness concerning important issues of our time — the horrors of animal agriculture, the declining state of human health (particularly in African American and lower socio-economic demographics) and the disastrous state of our planet’s dwindling environmental health.

Most are familiar with Russell’s background, but in case his name is new to you, let’s break it open.

Alongside Rick Rubin, in 1984 Russell co-founded Def Jam Recordings and quickly established himself as a prominent, guiding force in the quickly growing cultural revolution that became hip hop. Championing its breakout stars, Def Jam became the label by signing the movement’s ground-breaking forerunners – acts like the LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and The Beastie Boys.

But Def Jam was just the first step in Russell’s empire building quest. Before selling the label to Universal Music Group in 1999 for $100 million, he formed RUSH Communications and quickly expanded his reach into artist management, apparel, and film & television projects like The Nuttty Professor, Krush Groove, Gridlock’d and Def Comedy Jam.

Russell’s current holdings include a vast array of entrepreneurial interests and philanthropic efforts, including All Def Digital, Argyleculture, RushCard, Global Grind, The Foundation For Ethnic Understanding and Tantris, a yoga & lifestyle destination currently in development.

All of this is fascinating. But what interests me most about Russell is his personal journey. How discovering yoga and meditation led to his embrace of a vegan lifestyle. And the tremendous extent to which his commitment to cultivating an inner life based on the spiritual principles of ahimsa — a Sanskrit term for no harm — has impacted both his private and public life, his approach to business and his commitment to service and advocacy.

Today we unpack all of it.

This episode is definitely my most unique to date. Generally, I endeavor to architect the basic trajectory of my conversations; I know where I want to start and I know where I want to go. Suffice it to say this did not happen with Russell. Within the first 5 seconds of our conversation one thing was clear — I was not in control. Russell’s show, Russell’s flow.

When the dust settled, all I could think was, what just happened?

That’s charisma. This one’s different. But I loved every minute of it.

Topics explored include:

  • yoga, meditation & consciousness
  • the karmic debt of animal agriculture
  • the ecological havoc caused by food systems
  • the health implications of the American diet
  • Russell as agent for change
  • happy vs. angry vegans
  • using cryotherapy to revitalize
  • animal cruelty in factory farming
  • raising awareness from the top down
  • the benefits of meditation
  • the primacy of service
  • parenting & privilege
  • the effect of branding on consumer choice
  • empathy and compassion for others

Note: This episode is chock-a-block with expletives. I typically run a clean, family-friendly show, but it’s more important to me to allow my guests to be who they are. Russell rolls thick and deep with language, so this week we will too. Pop on the headphones if the kiddies are within earshot.

Finally, my son Tyler Piatt is moving on from his duties as day-one chief podcast audio engineer to focus on recording his first album. Ana Leimma features Tyler and my nephew Harrison Mathis swapping turns at song writing, lead vocals and lead guitar, accompanied by my other son Trapper on drums and Dylan Brosnan (yes, that Dylan Brosnan) on bass. Tyler joins me during the outro to say goodbye and take us out with a demo rendition of Ana Leimma’s Be Still. Dig it, listen/download below and send Ana Leimma some love on Facebook and Soundcloud. It’s the least you can do for all the hard work Tyler put into making this show the best it can be.

I enjoyed my time with Russell and I think you will too. While you’re at it, pick up The Happy Vegan– Russell’s easy-to-read primer on the ethical, health and environmental implications of our personal dietary choices with digestible, budget-conscious solutions for improving personal and planetary health through simple nutrition and lifestyle alterations.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

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SHOW NOTES

Connect With Russell: Twitter | Instagram

Check out Russell’s new book, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life*

Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt (his last episode!). Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Plantpower Way  is available at these fine retailers!

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