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Is Russell Simmons Really All That?

Russell Simmons and his group follow the core principles required for successful brands in the next economy ("The CEO of hip-hop," Cover Story, Oct. 27). He knows it's about the brand. On the operational side, production will continue to move to a place where it can be produced for the least cost.

Simmons recognizes that media and entertainment can define what we wear, where we eat, and how we spend our time. He is in a very sweet spot -- as consumer brands and entertainment continue to converge. There are some great lessons to be learned here for business leaders in many sectors. It's great to see an example like Simmons out there.

Robert W. D'Loren

President and CEO

UCC Capital Corp.

New York

One has to applaud Russell Simmons on his ability to create a personal fortune from marketing hip-hop to mainstream America. But let's be clear that hip-hop does not fit all categories. Hip-hop, with its focus on edgy attitudes and limitless if not pointless consumption, serves no purpose to marketers of mortgage and financial services, banking, education, insurance, and housing. These are all products and services that build and protect wealth for consumers, something that hip-hop seems not to care much about.

Brett Savage

Gaithersburg, Md.

I commend you for grabbing the attention of teens. I compose beats, write lyrics, and sing hip-hop. I have a studio in my garage. I have followed Mr. Simmons' career from its inception and highly respect the man.

Stefan Barone

Staten Island, N.Y.

I can't explain to you how much your article motivated me to keep striving to become a top designer. Russell Simmons can market anything, and hip-hop marketing is real!

LaToy Charae' McLean


Unfortunately, there was little mention of the content of the music of Def Jam label artists -- or the vulgar, crass, violent, and illiterate humor of HBO comedy shows put out by Def Jam. I don't find it heroic, entrepreneurial, pioneering, or authentic to sell your own race down the river in pursuit of the mighty dollar.

It may be profitable to ride the current wave of hip-hop to glorify pimps and criminals, to celebrate whores and crack cocaine and guns -- it may even be "hip" or "mainstream." But it ain't right.

Neil Jurgensen

Pasadena, Calif.

Quite a few things separate Russell Simmons from the average CEO. Your piece on his rise in business pinpointed many of them but neglected to discuss Another "h-word" that's as important to Simmons as hip-hop: heart. Simmons' all-encompassing ethic of looking out for others who need looking out for means that he fearlessly places animal protection on the agenda when he's cooking up deals with Corporate America. It takes a tough guy to stick up for a tiny chicken.

Ingrid E. Newkirk, President

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Norfolk, Va. The specialist is the buyer of last resort. ("Under the gun at the Big Board," News: Analysis & Commentary, Oct. 27). He has a franchise and is duty bound to defend it by maintaining an orderly market, using his own capital. October, 1987, could have turned into October, 1929, without specialists and market makers. I was there, on the floor of the American Stock Exchange when the whole world was selling. There were virtually no bids except for the specialists.

When the smoke cleared, some specialists in the smaller stocks had to file as insiders with the Securities & Exchange Commission because they now owned more than 5% of their listed companies! Some individual partners had to bring the deeds to their houses in to their lenders in order to stay in business.

When the next Big October Storm hits a market with no specialists, try calling your friendly electronic communications network with a big order for sale. You may well hear: "Sorry, our computer is not bidding for any stock just now."

Richard J. McLynn, Member (retired)

American Stock Exchange

New York As a technical support specialist for an Internet service provider here in the U.S., I am angered and offended at the insinuation that I am a poorly educated American working in a dead-end job, providing poor service to my customers because I don't care about them or my job ("All the world's a call center," News: Analysis & Commentary, Oct. 27). I am college-educated, and this is a career choice for me. I would suggest that Diane Brady come up with a computer problem, call for tech support from an overseas call center, and see how long it takes to fix the issue, if in fact it ever truly is fixed. Then I suggest she contact me with the same problem -- and compare her experiences.

Eric Wasson

Midwest Internet


I worked in 15 call centers in six years, mostly in Toronto, but also in Britain. I hope that's a record, but I certainly wasn't alone in the job-hopping. I would meet the same people as I hopped along. Didn't seem to bother employers: I would put my 10 most relevant jobs on my r?sum? and still get hired. I don't buy it that people in India are better at customer service. They are just in their first call center job. When they get to call center No. 15, they'll be just as irritable and impatient as I was.

Erik Cyr

Oshawa, Ont.

I am holding off replacing my equipment for as long as possible. The benefits and higher performance of a new PC do not outweigh the anticipated aggravations from the new miserly customer support.

Jeff Mills

Eugene, Ore. As a satisfied three-year driver of a Toyota Prius, it is unfortunate that I cannot buy a similar U.S.-built car ("Detroit is missing the boat," News: Analysis & Commentary, Oct. 27), but I will not subordinate my desire for a more environmental (as well as better driving) vehicle to Detroit's arrogance and incompetence. Shame on the Big Two- and-a-Half.

Mark Burger

Oak Park, Ill. Your article missed a major reason for the rebirth of large-city downtowns: Immigrants, especially Latinos and Asians, are moving in and rebuilding these communities ("An inner-city renaissance," Social Issues, Oct. 27). What most Americans consider uninhabitable neighborhoods, newly-arrived immigrants proudly call home.

Jose Colagrossi

Bethel, Conn.

The authors' assessment that America's ghettos first began to form early in the last century, as blacks left Southern farms for factory jobs in Northern cities, is false. The term ghetto originally meant Jewish settlement, and for over 500 years was used to describe communities that Jewish immigrants were forced to occupy.

Robynn Cox


In Chicago, what you call "An inner-city renaissance" is mostly just re-ghettoization. You fail to cover the hardships that befall the poor when they are forced from their homes and struggle to find places to live in a market with a shortage of inexpensive housing. New ghettos are formed in low-income suburbs -- areas distant from jobs, good public transit, and the educational and cultural amenities of the city.

Steve Balkin


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