Foundation: Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons & Kevin Liles (XXL Feature)
Simmons: I could talk about Lyor better than he can. He’s so nice, he might not say it. He was so in love with the music and worked so hard for the artists. He made a lot of money with Run-DMC and then lost all his money on Whodini. He came from a wealthy family but stayed in a raggedy hotel room… He worked for no money for a long time. He was Andre [Harrell’s] secretary. Andre shit on him.
Cohen: No, excuse me. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Simmons: I do. Andre had Lyor working hard as hell.
Cohen: I didn’t even know Andre at that time.
Simmons: Andre was the vice president of Rush.
Simmons: And Lyor came in.
Cohen: Wrong, wrong. You have a really bad memory… I’m going to tell you how Lyor Cohen was invented… When I came to New York, Run-DMC was at the airport, going to London…and no one had a passport… I went straight to the airport with my passport, and since they saw me from that show before, they were kind of gracious with me. There were some terrible things on that trip that I solved, and after that they asked me to be their road manager. That allowed me to get off the floor at that welfare hotel. It also gave me some sort of credibility, because I was sort of goofy—I didn’t look the part… That’s how that happened.
Are they always like this, Kevin?
Kevin Liles: Always. It’s usually worse.
You guys have this good-cop, bad-cop routine down pat.
Cohen: He is such a puss. He would never fire nobody.
Simmons: I’m a screamer.
Cohen: He has a reputation of never firing anyone and bludgeoning them to death and hoping that they would just understand.
Simmons: I have difficulty firing people. Sometimes Lyor would be the bad guy and I would be the nice guy. People would be like, “That nasty muthafucka Lyor.”
Do you have to be nasty to succeed at this job?
Cohen: Not at all. You don’t have to be nasty. We were never really nasty. We were determined to survive.
Simmons: Kevin Liles can fire people and be their best friend on their way out. “This is what the company has to have. I’m sorry, you’re not performing, and you have to go home.”
That’s not being mean. That’s being honest.
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