Lyor Cohen has essentially done in it all in the Hip-Hop industry as one of the genre’s more notable music executives. In a keynote speech at this year’s SXSW, Cohen ran down his career from the start to now, beginning with his time as a roadie for the legendary Run-DMC, and even addressed Russell Simmons‘ allegations.
Though overall a fun and optimistic talk, the keynote did hit a serious point early on, when Cohen addressed sexual misconduct and assault allegations that have been levelled against his former partner and one-time roommate, Def Jam and Rush Communications co-founder Russell Simmons.
“I want to acknowledge the awful allegations that have been made about Russell,” he said, at the first mention of Simmons’ name. “We were roommates and we’ve stayed friends and partners ever since. I never saw him aggressive or violent with any women. It’s not the RusselI I know. I’m deeply troubled with all the allegations, and there’s absolutely no room for this type of behavior.”
Cohen then discussed a career full of ups and downs (a particularly self-deprecating moment came when he mentioned whether anyone had heard of artists he namechecked from his short-lived ‘90s label RAL — “Didn’t think so,” he quipped). He described his goal during his eight-year stint at the helm of Warner Music Group as being the blue-collar Aamco to then-competitors Death Row and Bad Boy’s glitzier sheen — “We were the mechanics to the stars,” he said, throwing a bit of shade, “not the stars themselves,” and referred to his 2012 ouster from the company as “boardroom coup.”
Currently the head of YouTube Music, Cohen is promising some new changes to the music subscription model via the outlet and said that it’s coming soon although it was slated to launch during SXSW.