Rev Run Shares Wisdom on Hip Hop, Family, and Leadership
Students filled Dodd’s Theater Tuesday, Nov. 12, for what might have been the most anticipated event this semester yet. Individuals from all over campus poured into seats with the hopes of embracing some knowledge and wisdom from one of the most legendary players in Hip-Hop history, Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons of the iconic Run-DMC.
Photo Provided by Matt Carroll
Rev began like any other, growing up in the neighborhood of Hollis, Queens, trying not to fall to the temptations of violence and drugs that were prevalent at the time. It was through music that he made his mark with Darryl “DMC” Daniels and the late Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, skyrocketing through the charts with hits such as “It’s Like That” and “My Adidas.”
Since getting his start with Run DMC, Rev found God, became an ordained Pentecostal minister, and opened his home up for all to see in the hit TV show, Run’s House.
Over the years he has used his celebrity status to give back in any way he can, as well as write for several publications such as “Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America’s Parents,” co-written with his wife Justine Simmons. Having so many life experiences, the audience was eager to listen as Rev told stories and gave advice on how he has become both a leader and role model for so many.
The discussion began talking about leadership and what qualities make up a good leader; humility was the top trait. “Nobody wants to follow a know-it-all,” he said, explaining that being a leader means being humble, being responsible and being able to apologize when you’re wrong. It’s then, and only then, that you’ll be able to get people to follow you, which is one of the first characteristic signs of a leader.
When looking back at his role models he instantly chose his father and older brother, Russell Simmons of Def Jam record notoriety. He cited family as the first place a person goes to for inspiration and leadership, as well as the belief that the lack of leadership within the home is the key component in young kids getting involved in gangs. He also noted that at the height of Run DMC, he began to turn to God and the church for guidance to fill an empty void within himself.
“The things I thought would make me happy didn’t. They made me empty,” Rev shared about his success with Run DMC. “My top was in fact my bottom.”
One of the most compelling stories of the night came from this topic of fame and his choice to follow his faith, remembering one night in a presidential suite in LA, “This collar became wrapped around my neck getting to that number one spot. I was in the tub, smoking weed, eating French toast. Ashes were falling in the tub, syrup was dripping into the tub, I had a beautiful girl waiting at the door, a guy with the keys to a Rolls Royce at the door, Rolling Stone was at the door ready to interview me….and I just broke down. I didn’t own all this stuff, it owned me.”
Family was also a prevalent topic throughout the evening. It started with his parents.
“I didn’t have the bullying type of parents,” he answered when asked if his parents encouraged or discouraged his pursuit of the rap industry. “I never felt judged for my choices.” It was their presence and support that helped him make big moves and follow his dreams.
His brother, Russell, has also been a very big part of his success. The two of them have worked on many projects throughout the years. He explained their partnership as Rev the entertainer and Russell the business man. Their relationship depends on the special gifts and talents God individually gave each of them and it really is all about complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Simply put, “When we get together, it works.”
Of course the discussion couldn’t go without a little chat about the hit show, Run’s House, and his family. He works in his household to keep balance amongst his family members, in the hopes that nobody becomes too overbooked or too crazy.
He tries his best not to run around much himself, because it is that balance that keeps him from running his body down. Of all the members of his family, it’s his wife’s ambitions that usually go too far.
“It is definitely possible for women to become too ambitious to find a mate,” Rev warned the ladies of the crowd, “Being ambitious is in no way a bad thing, but it can be very intimidating.”
Of course, having one of the hip-hop greats in the room, it was an obvious topic of conversation to ask what Rev felt about the current state of hip hop. Contrary to what most would think…he actually loves it! Among his favorites in the business right now are Drake, Jay Z and Kanye West.
“It’s weird to some people that I love the direction hip hop is going in, but I love it. People expect me to like stuff like Kendrick Lamar, because he feels old school, and he is great, but I’m all about the new bright stuff.”
J Cole was also brought up for the feud between Cole and son Diggy Simmons, “He’s a good artist but he went the wrong route coming at my family. He’s not even a battle rapper, more of an entertainer. Diggy got back at him definitely.”
Throughout the evening, Rev sprinkled in little bits of awe inspiring wisdom that motivated crowd. Most of it was about not letting material possessions get to you in life, “Don’t let your heart’s desire become a heart disease,” as well as, “find what you love, the money will follow.”
The idea of being an individual, as well as doing what you love, was also stressed. “What you’re fascinated by, becomes fastened to you. That’s why I don’t watch horror movies,” he explained, “I don’t want that fear in my life, so I skip over the scary channels.”
He says that his favorite quote is, “Do your best, and forget the rest,” because it is inspiring, while keeping people in check at the same time. Looking at others gaining success can be hard sometimes, but God can come in and show your purpose. When looking into the music industry, Rev offers simple advice; be an intern and then work harder than the paid employees. “Work so hard, that if you were absent one day the whole company would fall apart. Become necessary. Nobody can vulture you out of your talent.”
Rev and his family’s show, Rev Run’s Renovation, will air Jan.4 on HGTV, and features the house seen on Run’s House getting a top-to-bottom makeover.