Russel, Simmons, hip-hop, evolving, Bali, Lyor. Cohen, 50, years

Russell Simmons Says Hip-Hop Is Not Dead, ‘It Is Always Evolving’

If there’s anyone who knows if hip-hop is dead or not, it’s pioneer record executive Russell Simmons.

The Def Jam founder was at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 18 for the Spirit of Life Gala one-time-only version of DJ Cassidy‘s “Pass the Mic Live!” that honored fellow hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur Lyor Cohen.

It was an event Simmons couldn’t miss as he flew from Bali to watch many hip-hop legends, some of whom he discovered and developed at Def Jam, honor an executive who built the start of his music career working on Simmons’ groundbreaking label.

“Lyor is my lifelong friend and partner and I was so proud of him and the work that he’s doing with City of Hope,” Simmons said.

The event was hosted by the cancer research and treatment organization City of Hope and included performances by 36 artists including Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, EPMD, Ja Rule, Swizz Beatz, T.I., and many more.

All of the performers did “really good,” according to Simmons, and proved that no matter how old they get, they “still got it.”

When asked about ongoing music debates claiming that the current state of hip-hop is “trash” compared to earlier years, Simmons shut down that notion.

“It’ll never be how it used to be it’s always evolving,” he said. “It’s always moments where it’s less popular and more.”

The hip-hop mogul recalls his start in the industry back in the late 70s and notes the art form’s evolution over the last 50 years.

“For 50 years it’s been evolving and it goes in moments where it grows and it’s going to keep growing.

As for what can be done to revive hip-hop, Simmons says nothing needs to speed up the evolution that has continued over the last five decades.

“It’s just a moment before it grows again,” he said.

RELATED CONTENT: 10 Hip-Hop Books To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip-Hop Culture