Hip-Hop impresario Russell Simmons is one of those great stories. Along with Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin, Simmons can be credited with bringing rap into the mainstream and opening doors to the fame and fortune so many hip-hop stars enjoy today. Simmons has impressively expanded his empire beyond music to business ventures which include a clothing line, a financial services company and a jewelry company. Adding a line of jewelry makes sense given how hip-hop culture has infused accessories into necessary props for any would-be MC.
For years, some have questioned hip-hop's bling binges when the major component of so many adornments - diamonds - have such a controversial industry behind their cultivation in Africa. Indeed, earlier this summer Kanye West, who addressed the issue in his "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" track, participated in the documentary "Bling: A Planet Rock" and urged the hip hop community to "bling responsibly." Some human rights activists have gone farther and called for all-out boycotts of the diamond industry.
Russell Simmons thinks that kind of rhetoric goes too far. He recently toured Africa and says that not all diamonds are so-called "conflict diamonds," and as stated by the likes of Nelson Mandela, some good is created by the proceeds and jobs created by the industry. Not everyone thinks Simmons is right for defending the industry, even if he's only speaking about certain segments.
Ed Zwick, director of the new Warner Brothers film, Blood Diamond, starring Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, reportedly says Simmons is being used by the industry and that "Simmons is being embarrassed" by speaking out on its behalf. Simmons took offense to the comment, and issued this statement to TMZ through a rep: