Conflict… Blood… Peace Diamonds? Russell you are still not Hip-Hop!
A couple years back Rosa Clemente penned a heavy letter about Russell Simmons called Russell Simmons You Are Not Hip Hop. Back in 2001 it caught me, it helped me remember why I got sick of people sweating Russell. It got me to realize why I did a little “mouth vomit” when I heard someone refer to him as the Godfather of Hip-Hop (didn’t Herc already have that title?). Recently Russell opened his mouth again, this time to defend the diamond industry.
This past weekend I shelled over my hard earned bills to see Blood Diamond at the theaters. Going in, I had my expectations set at the level that I set them when I’m going to listen to a Method Man album (that’s pretty darn low). But I was rather impressed with the film. Of course there were your standard issues of gender and race (e.g. Black Africans find White woman in the bush and she charms them with her camera — don’t even get me started) but the message about conflict diamonds was very clear to me. Conflict diamonds help support war and distinguishing between a conflict diamond and free diamond is damn near impossible. Neither of which were new concepts to me, but I thought they were both well illustrated in the film.
When the film was rolling out, I was interested to see that Nelson Mandela came out with a statement about diamonds and their positive impact on African economies. I was immediately a little bit concerned, as were others. Eventually, I had to wrestle with Mandela potentially selling out or if there was a degree of pragmatism attached to support of the diamond trade for the wealth or rather reduction of gross debt for African nations. I think my history with Nelson Mandela allowed me to take his statements within a larger context, when Russell Simmons opened his mouth however, I heard cash registers ringing.
Who the hell died and made Russell chief of Diasporic Affairs? And can I really take him seriously if Jim Jones is on his side with a diamond crusted bracelet? Okay, that’s just my bias! For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he’s graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn… I wonder is there a difference between the two?