“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.”
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,
Check out Julie’s new podcast divine throughline
Thanks to this week’s sponsors:
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Check out Russell’s new book, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life*
Background, Context & Reference:
- The Atlantic: How To Defend Being Vegan With Russell Simmons
- Forks Over Knives: Mogul Russell Simmons On How His Lifestyle Fuels His Success
- Ecorazzi: Russell Simmons: ‘I Am Not An Angry Vegan’
- CBS This Morning: Music Mogul On How Going Vegan Changed His Life
- FoxNews: Russell Simmons On Being A Happy Vegan
- Pix11: Russell Simmons is ‘The Happy Vegan’ and you can be one too
- HipHopDX: Russell Simmons Criticizes FDA & Talks Vegan Lifestyle
- MusicTimes: Russell Simmons Discusses the Importance of Eating Healthy Food and Criticizes the FDA
- Entrepreneur: Russell Simmons: 3 Simple Ways Meditation Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur
- GlobalGrind: To My Old Friend Donald Trump, Stop The Bullsh*t
- Book: The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment* by Eckhart Tolle
- RUSH Communications: rushcommunications.com
- All Def Digital: alldefdigital.com
- Global Grind: globalgrind.com
- Argyle Culture: argyleculture.com
- RushCard: rushcard.com
Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:
- Simone Reyes: producer, director & Animal rights activist
- Gayle King: co-anchor of CBS This Morning and editor-at-large for O Magazine
- Tony Robbins: motivational speaker, personal finance instructor and self-help author
- Lebron James: professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers
- Bill O’Reilly: television host, author, historian and political commentator
- Steve Ross: yoga instructor, author and founder of Maha Yoga
- Pharell Williams: singer, rapper, and record producer
- Kimora Lee Simmons: former fashion model and fashion designer
- Roger Ailes: television executive and current Chairman/CEO of Fox News
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #035:Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary On Factory Farming, Ag-Ag Bills, Health & Consumer Choice
- RRP #091:Keegan Kuhn & Kip Andersen on Cowspiracy
- RRP #135:Joshua Katcher on Reimagining Fashion As Environmentally & Ethically Sound
- RRP #136:Ethan Brown on Reinventing How To Feed The World
- RRP #138:Gene Baur on How To Live More In Alignment With Your Values
- RRP #176:Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, Cowspiracy: How Animal Agriculture Is Destroying The Planet & What You Can Do About It
Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt (his last episode!). Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.
*Disclosure: Books, films and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to our Amazon affiliate code. Any purchase will not cost you a cent extra but will support the show by shaking loose a little Amazon affiliate change in our direction.
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