Russell Simmons did not appreciate Geraldo Rivera's recent claim that hip-hop is "very destructive culturally." Cornered by TMZ, the rap mogul rebutted the permanently smiling talk-show host and Celebrity Apprentice runner-up, calling him "Juh-raldo" and claiming that the only reason Rivera was speaking up was to "get himself relevant."
"Geraldo, the prison industrial complex got people so twisted," Simmons said. "For 40 years, they've been locking up diseased drug addicts, educating them on criminal behavior and dumping them back in the hood. The poetry and the reflection [in hip-hop] are what come from that jail culture; that's obvious...The media is really dumb to let that man [speak]. He needs to be progressive and do good work to help people. And now he's a talking head."
He also dressed down Rivera, who won a Peabody Award for his exposé on a corrupt school for mentally disabled children in the Seventies, as a journalist. "He never did shit to help nobody, not in a very long time," Simmons said. "But he used to do something 30, 40 years ago, but he's not relevant no more."
Earlier this week, Rivera spoke out against rap music and culture on HuffPost Live. "Hip-hop has done more damage to black and brown people than racism in the last 10 years," he said. "When you find the youngster, a Puerto Rican from the South Bronx or a black kid from Harlem, who has succeeded in life other than being the one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent that make it in the music business, that's been a success in life walking around with his pants around his ass or with visible tattoos."
Rivera also invoked Simmons' name in the interview. "This whole ethos, and I love Russell Simmons – he's a dear friend of mine, I admire his business acumen – at some point though, those guys need to cop to the fact that by encouraging this distinctive culture that is removed from the mainstream they have encouraged people to be so different from the mainstream that they can't participate other than the racks in the garment center and those entry level jobs," he said.
Previously, Simmons and Rivera sparred in the media over the latter's claims that Trayvon Martin made himself a target by wearing a hoodie, so he could – in Rivera's words – look "gangsta." He later apologized, but Simmons did not appreciate the sentiment. "Geraldo, your apology is bullshit," he said, according to Billboard. "Your apology is nothing but a defense of a racist, backward thing you already said."