Russell Simmons Accusers on Music’s #MeToo Problem – Variety


In January on the Sundance Movie Pageant, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s “On The File,” a searing take a look at sexual harassment allegations towards music mogul Russell Simmons, debuted and obtained two thunderous standing ovations. The nice and cozy reception got here after the movie was engulfed in a media firestorm, one sparked by Oprah Winfrey’s determination to take away herself from the undertaking as govt producer. That transfer left “On the File,” which had been slated to premiere on Apple’s streaming platform, and not using a distributor. After the Sundance premiere, HBO Max rapidly swooped in and bought the documentary, which can premiere on the streamer on Wednesday.

The movie follows former Def Jam Data govt Drew Dixon, who has accused Simmons of rape and sexual harassment. Different Simmons accusers, Sil Lai Abrams and Sheri Hines, additionally share their tales within the doc.

Dixon, Abrams and Hines talked to Variety about Oprah’s departure, Dr. Luke’s current comeback and the chance of the music business having its personal #MeToo motion.

Winfrey stated she deserted the undertaking resulting from “inconsistencies” within the movie. Director Ava DuVernay instructed the New York Instances, “(Oprah’s) obtained Simmons on one facet pressuring her, after which she’s obtained a movie on the opposite facet that she doesn’t agree with. So if she walks away from the movie, she looks like she’s caving to Simmons, and if she stays with the movie, then she’s placing her identify on one thing that she feels doesn’t fairly hit the mark.”

What was your response to 2 of probably the most highly effective girls on the planet – who're African American – saying what they stated concerning the movie?

Dixon: I’ve super respect for Oprah Winfrey and I’ve super respect for Ava DuVernay. I stay grateful to them for all of their unimaginable work to maneuver us ahead in so some ways. They’re entitled to their opinion and I respect their opinions. However Ava has quite a lot of f–king nerve critiquing the work of one other filmmaker — when black girls are lastly get an opportunity to inform our story. The movie has been completely vetted and verified by many authorized groups, together with the filmmakers, Harpo, Apple, and HBO Max. I’m keen to seek out out what odd individuals who aren’t well-known, who aren’t tastemakers or gatekeepers, consider the movie, as a result of it’s actually for them. It’s not for us. It’s not for celebrities. It’s not for insiders. It’s not for the gatekeepers. It’s for different survivors. It’s additionally for society so we are able to start to debate and comprehend and reconcile this injustice that pervades our tradition.

Drew, within the movie you make a remark about Biggie Smalls, “I all the time marvel what would have occurred if Biggie had lived. Biggie had my again.” What did you imply by that?

Dixon: Biggie was a buddy. I met him earlier than he obtained his report deal. We each had super ambition to explode within the rap sport, however in several methods. He as an artist and in my case as an govt and music producer. Every time I obtained a brand new job he was one of many first individuals who would are available to take a gathering with me to attempt to discover a approach for us to work collectively as a result of he revered me as an expert. So I suppose my thought is that maybe I might have collaborated with him indirectly as soon as he turned a megastar and that may’ve been a spot the place I might have gotten traction with out having to take care of a few of the poisonous habits I encountered with different males within the business. However I do not know if that’s true, however it’s definitely one thing that I ponder now and again.

Sil Lai, you might have stated that once you heard that Brett Ratner had been accused of sexual misconduct in November 2017, you knew that Russell Simmons was subsequent. Why?

Abrams: Russell and Brett had a complete bromance. Russell beloved to take credit score for the truth that he put Brett on the map by giving him his first gig directing music movies. They chased girls collectively. They partied collectively. They had been all the time round one another.  Due to their shut proximity to one another I assumed it was pure that Russell could be subsequent. Then my suspicions had been confirmed when Keri Claussen Khalighi got here ahead weeks after Brett (was accused).

Drew, within the movie you speak about your tenure as vice chairman of A&R at Arista Data and the way you rejected then-president and CEO L.A. Reid’s advances. You stated that he didn't signal artists you requested him to think about like Kanye West and John Legend with the intention to get again at you for rebuffing him. Reid later signed Kanye when he moved to Island Def Jam Music Group. How did you're feeling about that?

Dixon: L.A. Reid ended up operating the (Def Jam Music) label the place Kanye was already one of many largest stars. So he inherited Kanye they usually pretended to be greatest buds. That was sickening to me. I deserted my profession in music largely due to him not signing Kanye (at Arista). It was one of many straws that broke the camel’s again for me. It was clear after he did that, that irrespective of what number of hits I made and irrespective of what number of stars I found, I might by no means be something aside from objectified and sexualized throughout the business. Years later I had the thought so as to add Kanye vocals to the tune “American Boy” (2007). As a result of I knew Kanye, I used to be capable of get in contact with him and pull that favor. I hadn’t seen Kanye for a few years, however within the studio I requested him if he remembered that audition (at Arista) and that L.A. handed? He indicated in so many phrases that he would always remember. And that he was all the time grateful to me for auditioning him. And that was a big a part of the rationale why he confirmed up for “American Boy.” That was gratifying to listen to.

Why hasn’t the music business had its personal #Metoo motion?

Hines: I grew up within the Bronx and once you develop up within the Bronx you’re taught that outing a black man could be regarded down upon due to all the brutality they face on a every day foundation for simply being black. So there may be and was quite a lot of concern about not getting help from your personal neighborhood.

Dixon: Somebody as soon as instructed me that the report enterprise is highschool with cash and that’s true. The entire energy brokers are sitting on the identical desk in the highschool cafeteria and they’re going to make a break everybody else within the college/ business. And so they all have one another’s again. That’s the reason you run into these roadblocks. Within the music business they cowl for one another and also you’re lifeless within the water if you’ll not play their sport.

Abrams: Music has not had a #Metoo motion as a result of everyone actually and figuratively is in mattress with one another. Individuals are sharing sexual companions. They’re sharing administration. It’s such an incestuous discipline that when for instance, Russell is outed as a predator, you simply have to have a look at the folks which can be round him and know that they had been additionally part of it. They had been current. They had been facilitating. They had been silent. They had been complicit. And so as a result of there may be a lot publicity to so many individuals in energy, nobody goes to talk as a result of everybody’s obtained leverage on the opposite particular person.

With the information of Dr. Luke’s comeback with Doja Cat hit “Say So,” do you there's nonetheless hope for progress within the music business relating to sexual harassment?

Dixon: All of us determined to take part on this movie and I hope that when it reaches a broader viewers, different folks will resolve one after the other to make a distinct alternative. Whether or not it’s survivors who resolve to come back ahead or a sufferer who decides that they are going to now not tolerate being victimized as a result of they’re going to inform anyone. I believe the change will come when every particular person decides, no matter their function is within the business, that they’re going to do higher.

Abrams: For my part, no. The music business is not going to have a #MeToo motion. Completely not. It’s unlucky that that’s the case, however it’s.

You had been all very younger once you entered into the music enterprise. Trying again do you're feeling such as you had been naïve coming into an business that's recognized to be brazenly misogynistic?

Hines: I wouldn’t say I used to be naïve. I simply trusted and regarded it as much as Russell Simmons. My household trusted him.

Abrams: One thousand % I used to be naive going into the music business as a younger girl. I didn’t develop into conscious of how poisonous the tradition actually is and was and the way endemic patriarchy, sexism and misogyny are in our society till I turned a radical black feminist in my forties.

Dixon: I used to be very conscious that I used to be coming into a misogynist tradition. What I used to be naive about was rape tradition. I knew that I needed to overcome my gender with the intention to do my job. I assumed that if I proved myself professionally that I might clear that hurdle. I used to be naive sufficient to imagine that I might overcome the misogyny of which I used to be nicely conscious of by being actually good or possibly even higher than my male counterparts. What I used to be naive about is rape tradition and the truth that rapists don’t all the time bounce out of alleyways and assault you at nighttime of evening at knife level. And that’s a part of why this movie is necessary and the #MeToo motion is necessary as a result of it’s not nearly misogyny. It’s about rape tradition and it’s about the best way rape actually works and the best way rape actually appears to be like.

Dorothy Carvello, creator of “Something For a Hit: An A&R Lady’s Story Of Surviving The Music Business,” lately wrote a visitor column for Variety during which she wrote that when talking with males within the music business, “the widespread theme is they don't perceive consent.” Do you additionally assume that males within the report business don’t perceive the phrase consent?

Dixon: Russell Simmons understood that each one three of us weren’t consenting. All of us fought him. Sheri hit him with a lamp. I begged and pleaded and bodily fought. Sil Lai stated no earlier than and through. He understood consent. Rape is an abuse of energy. Rape will not be some misunderstanding. It’s not that they don’t know higher, they simply don’t care. And so they know that the onus will fall on the sufferer to show that she didn’t consent and never on them to show that they understood consent.

How do you're feeling concerning the movie’s HBO Max launch? Are you anticipating a backlash?

Hines: I’m getting anxiousness nearer to the movie popping out. My vulnerability and my ache goes to be proven to the world. I’m wondering how that’s going to look as a result of there may be a lot extra to me.

Abrams: I’ve a help community in place that I do know will examine in. However regardless that I really feel just a little extra ready than I did going into Sundance, I’m nonetheless actually afraid as a result of my 25 year-old daughter hasn’t seen the movie. However so far as blowback is anxious, Russell and his cronies did their greatest however they may not cease this movie. If by some likelihood he or anybody begins a marketing campaign of terror towards us on-line, so be it, I’m ready.

Dixon: We’ve all already lived by means of the worst-case state of affairs of dropping our distributor and our govt producer proper earlier than Sundance and we survived that. I’ll be watching alone in my front room with my cats in quarantine and that’s not what I imagined. I hoped to be someplace on the planet with Sheri and Sil Lai, which was vastly useful for me at Sundance. However I imagine issues occur for a purpose and so no matter blowback comes, I imagine that I’ll be okay. All of us will likely be okay on the opposite facet of it.


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