After the Imus scandal, the rap mogul made a surprising plea to remove three offensive words from hip-hop's airwaves. He has also penned a new book about self-empowerment. Russell Simmons will now take your questions.
You have recently recommended that the words nigger, bitch and ho should be banned from the radio versions of songs, labeling them "extreme curse words." Why are you focusing on only these three words? John Kensall, Toronto
Because every time you speak to a black activist, he will tell you that these three words offend him the most. [Eliminating] these three words will alleviate a lot of the pain.
How has ostentatious consumption and misogyny become the norm for the hip-hop movement? Carl Gauss, Venice, Calif.
It is the norm for American culture. Hip-hop expresses things people won't say. You do it, listen to it and accept it. It's just when rappers express it, people are shocked.
I know many hip-hop artists are talented, but why can't they make songs that don't put black people down in front of the world? Sherman Gay, Los Angeles
They don't think they are putting themselves down. Hip-hop is so honest. We have to adhere to the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable. The artists have to express what's in their heart. They don't always feel like being happy and dancing.
Do you think Don Imus should have been fired? Hoziah Outland, Lebanon, Pa.
The dialogue is more important than Imus. The fact that we are discussing race is inspiring. I didn't care what happened to him. What he said was hurtful: the difference between those words coming out of a rapper's mouth and his mouth is that when a rapper says them, they are not racial. If I walk up to a black man on the street and say "nigger" with a blank expression, nine times out of 10 he would hug me. That is a fact.
Immediately after the Imus flap, you spoke out against hip-hop censorship. Now, you want rappers and media outlets to stop using these terms over the airways. Doesn't this make you a hypocrite? Keyon Jeff, Houma, La.
No. I think it is some self-analysis. The outrage [over the Imus situation] made me think about it. I am allowed to have a different opinion.
Should lewd material in music videos also be eliminated? Derick Larbi, Bridgeport, Conn.
I don't see how this generation is any more lewd. Their skirts are no shorter than the previous generation's. Women have been objectified throughout history. We have to work on that. Don't say that rappers invented it. People love pointing fingers at the rappers.
Even if you eliminate these three words from hip-hop culture, what about other rap themes that are dangerous to society, like "no snitching" anthems? Brendan Ripp, New York City
S---, when I was a kid I didn't snitch either. I don't know if you watch them gangster movies where the Italian guys come out of the church and they don't talk-- the sad truth is that we can talk about "no snitching" as if it were a rap code, but it is a street code. We need to create a dialogue between the police and community. That's the issue. We talk about gangsta rappers, but why do we never talk about our gangsta government?
Wouldn't it be much more advisable to refocus your ideas on how best we can empower black people educationally, economically and otherwise? Agboola Kehinde, London
My office has a whole floor called Rush Community Affairs. We have the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and other organizations. Plus, name me a rapper, and I will tell you the name of his charity. Even the worst rappers that you think you hate. You tell me 50 Cent, and I will tell you about G-Unity [his foundation for kids].
Won't my generation come up with new terms and new ways to promote the same offensive expressions? C. Videgain, Brooklyn, N.Y.
I hope so. I hope there will always be an outlet for pain in these communities. It's something we have to address.
From your new book, Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You, can you tell me one law to achieve happiness and success? Abdisalan Mire, Hamilton, New Zealand
Get your mind right. That speaks to meditation and prayer. All of our movements are prayers. Every statement we make and every thought we have is a prayer. And what are we praying for? We are praying to lift people up. Because if you start to move to a cycle of giving, then you will be O.K.