Russell Simmons Writes Open Letter to Kanye
I have early recollections of Damon Dash calling me and forcing me to put you on Def Poetry Jam. I knew your record, “Through The Wire,” but I didn’t know much more. When you took the stage on Def Poetry Jam that night, and spit those genuine, heartfelt words, I witnessed your specialness that Damon had emphatically told me about.
From that moment on, you became a poet who has inspired the poets. I have proudly watched your career since then, and in case someone has missed the obvious, you are making a historical impact on music. Your life story took a tough turn with the passing of your mother. Although we grieved with you, we never really knew how much pain you were in. We witnessed your moment at the MTV Music Awards and many of us dismissed it as, “oh that is just Kanye being Kanye.” The hard part of all of this, is that we have all had moments in our lives that have been challenging, painful and hard to overcome, however most of us just hide our emotions and never deal with that inner-struggle that we face on a daily basis. As an artist, Kanye, you have always looked inside for your inspiration…always exuding emotions that are in us, but that we never expose. That is what artistry is about…to look inside for what is unique. With your journey towards a higher level of consciousness, a journey that we all are on, you have shown through your art a commitment to greatness.
The thirty minute film you most recently made was beyond brilliant. Brilliance is not a word that can even begin to describe your ability to paint vibrant, vivacious, colorful yet muted paintings of poetry, music, costume, art, design and most important, passion. The passion you put into your new album is why I stayed up all those nights in the early 80’s trying to get DJs and radio stations to play our records. I knew this day would come. Actually, maybe I didn’t know, but I really, really hoped it would. I didn’t work this hard when I was your age to watch the culture go the wrong way. And you, my friend, just took us to another level. I am simply in awe.
With this power, as you know, comes great responsibility. I am saying nothing you haven’t heard before. When you spoke about President Bush during the Katrina telethon, it was not the particulars of your words that mattered, it was the essence of a feeling of the insensitivity towards our communities that many of us have felt for far too long. It was the image of the President, our President, the President of the United States Of America, peering out the window of an airplane, as the people on the ground were drowning, that hurt us the most. For centuries, our people have relentlessly tread water as hard as they could to stay afloat, and here we were, literally drowning, and it felt like the President was insensitive. There is no need to apologize, Kanye. You spoke from your heart and that is all we will ever ask from you. Don’t be afraid of the press, as your art is your blueprint, thanks to Jay-Z, your big brother, we will always carry our destiny in our own hands. You are are an artist whose art is masterful. You are a servant to this world who no matter how hard it gets, keeps on giving. Giving gifts that inspire us, challenge us and motivate us to be better family and friends.
Keep on, Kanye. Keep on. We love you. We cherish you. And we will always have your back.