Russell Simmons: ‘Forget the Oscars,’ ‘There’s Nobody Black’ in Charge in Hollywood

Russell Simmons poses for a portrait on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 in New York. (Photo by Scott Gries/Invision/AP)
Scott Gries/Invision/AP

Entertainment mogul Russell Simmons says the controversy created by the Oscars’s lack of black nominees, which spawned the “Oscars So White” social media tsunami, is the least concern for black entertainers, in what he calls a very “segregated” Hollywood.

“The problem is that there’s nobody black pushing buttons nowhere — nowhere — in charge of nothing,” said Russell Simmons before DJ Vlad noted that the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is an African-American woman. “Yeah, the president of The Academy, the producer of the show, Chris Rock – f*ck The Academy.”

Russell Simmons produced his first film, Crush Grovein 1985 and executive produced Def Comedy Jam, which ran on HBO from 1992 to 2008.

“The conversation is who’s pressing the buttons. Nobody black, period,” the Def Jam Recordings co-founder said. “No president of no studio is black. No president of no TV show company is black. Nobody of any significance at all in the agency business is black. Nobody. Nobody black in charge of nothing at no agency.

After acknowledging respected Hollywood talent agent Charles King — who’s black — Simmons said, “I see it as an infrastructure problem.”

Indeed, the Academy’s failure to nominate black and Latino talent in 2015 and 2016 created weeks of negative press that overshadowed Hollywood’s most prestigious event.

Several studies, notably The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, declared an “inclusion crisis” in the entertainment industry that extend beyond the Academy Awards. Oscars host Chris Rock viciously mocked Hollywood’s diversity problem. And front office bigwigs began an industry-wide effort to cast and promote more minorities and women in the wake of “Oscars So White.”

“They’re not necessarily racist,” Simmons said. “What’s really troublesome to me is the segregation in Hollywood.”

Simmons contends that the people pulling the strings in Hollywood “pick cornballs” or token black comedians, who are accepted by their non-black betters.

Russell Simmons names Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (Keanu, Key And Peele), saying, “N*ggas didn’t choose them. Black people didn’t choose them.”

While Simmons encourages black people who are and aren’t entertainers to “integrate” and to “make some white friends,” he warns up-and-coming black artists that Hollywood still segregates talents based on race.

“It is true that if you a black comedian, you don’t know you’re a n*gga until you move to Hollywood and they tell you, ‘I’ll see you on Chocolate Sunday, that’s what night you play.’ It’s segregated.”


Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson.