The fa­ther fig­ure of hip-hop, Sim­mons walks the talk

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOKS - DAN CHAR­NAS RE­VIEWED BY

The trans­for­ma­tion of hip-hop mogul Rus­sell Sim­mons from the recre­ational dru­gus­ing, model-chas­ing man­ager of sem­i­nal 1980s rap artists Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Will Smith into a serene 21stcen­tury prophet of ve­g­an­ism and med­i­ta­tion may be sur­real, but it’s also quite real. Even in his dark days of ex­cess, Sim­mons had a lot of light around him. As 1990s en­trepreneurs like Suge Knight made the rap busi­ness vir­tu­ally syn­ony­mous with in­vec­tive and vi­o­lence, Sim­mons stood above them as a rel­a­tive paragon of virtue, achiev­ing un­matched suc­cess with hu­mor and hus­tle rather than bru­tal­ity. As he ma­tured and em­braced his holis­tic life­style, Sim­mons be­came “Un­cle Rush,” pur­veyor of hip-hop brands but also phi­lan­thropist and fa­ther-fig­ure.

Sim­mons takes his men­tor­ing role se­ri­ously. In 2007, he wrote his first self-help book, a go-get’em ca­reer primer called “Do You.” Now, he is­sues his fol­lowup, “Su­per Rich,” a slim, suc­cinct and saga­cious vol­ume about the true mean­ing of wealth (spoiler alert: It ain’t about the money).

While Amer­i­cans eas­ily wel­come ad­vice from wealthy men, could any­thing be more ob­nox­ious than a rich guy telling the as­pir­ing masses, as Sim­mons does, that “ there’s no dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing broke and be­ing a mil­lion­aire”? But Sim­mons knows this and spends the first pas­sages of “Su­per Rich” front­load­ing his ex­pla­na­tion: There’s noth­ing shame­ful in en­joy­ing the worldly fruits of your la­bor, he ar­gues. But it’s the la­bor, and not its fruits, that brings hap­pi­ness.

This isn’t some spir­i­tual sleight-of-hand or mys­ti­cal mumbo jumbo. Sim­mons may be a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire, but his real love has never been the dough; it has al­ways been his work, which in his life has al­ways seemed more like the yo­gic con­cept of “ leela,” or di­vine play. In “Su­per Rich,” the phi­los­o­phy is sound — ar­tic­u­lated in sim­ple prose with as­sis­tance from jour­nal­ist Chris Mor­row, but filled with anec­dotes, hu­mor and raw lan­guage that are un­mis­tak­ably Sim­mons’s.

Sim­mons re­works the “Bha­gavad Gita” as if Ar­juna and Lord Kr­ishna were two guys from his neigh­bor­hood in Hol­lis, Queens. These mo­ments might read like blas­phemy, but they sit atop a foun­da­tion of real knowl­edge and prac­tice. Sim­mons does more than talk: He teaches, pro­vid­ing med­i­ta­tion tools for the reader to put his con­cepts into ac­tion.

Hip-hop and spir­i­tu­al­ity might seem to have lit­tle in com­mon. But like yo­gic phi­los­o­phy, hip-hop is all about the power of vi­bra­tion, the power of the word. In “Su­per Rich,” Sim­mons emerges as the first in­flu­en­tial voice to make that con­nec­tion for a new gen­er­a­tion.


SU­PER RICH A Guide to Hav­ing It All

By Rus­sell Sim­mons with Chris Mor­row Gotham. 197 pp. $22.50

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