Hip-Hop mogul has birthed several movements throughout this career. Forget about movement… think about the executives that he has tutored. Chris Lighty? Andre Harrell? Lyor Cohen? Hot stuff, huh? Now think about all of the stars that he has guided into rap music history. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame only has three rap acts and half of them are from his camp: RUN DMC, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Think about who he managed… Blockbuster Film Icon Will Smith… Rakim Allah, the god emcee… the list of luminaries that he has influenced is legendary. Def Comedy Jam gave us Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, Chris Tucker, Dave Chapelle… get the drift? Def Poetry Jam… Black Ice… Georgia Me…
It’s like all he has ever done is attract talent. But one talent that he never signed, but is probably more precious to him than eenie-meanie-miney-moe…
That’s Simone Reyes, his long-time assistant.
Oh, you didn’t know that Simone was a talent? You thought all she did was answer his phone and protest with the PETA folk? And even if that is all she did, that would be a monstrous feat for anyone if you know all the stuff that RWS was involved in. However, she hasn’t been just his assistant for years.
Simone at one point was an executive at his film and TV company, a producer on several reality shows and yup… even an actor. But recently, she has put much of that behind her, projects that advocate for other people, and doubled down to support her own dreams. Using all the gifts that she has learned as a fly on the wall in the office of one of Hip-Hop’s most powerful executives, she has released her own body of work. It is nothing like what you would expect from a fly shorty with so much access to rap historicity. Simone is putting out country music… and it is classic country… it is fresh and new… and it is really good.
The Source magazine had an opportunity to sit with Simone and she offered a peek into her new life in front of the mic.
Simone, you have been in the music business for close to 30 years in a variety of capacities. How did you get into the music biz?
I ran with the Beastie Boys crew ( you can spot me in some of their early music videos and you can, if you listen really closely hear me on the track “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” ) and heard that Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons we’re opening an office at 298 Elizabeth Street in NOHO in Manhattan. They needed a receptionist which seemed like more fun than working at Tower Records which was where I was working at the time during the day and taking college classes at night. Lyor Cohen interviewed me on a cardboard box in the entryway. I had no idea, being just eighteen years old that I would become a part of the Def Jam family.
Where are you from and what kinds of music influenced you growing up?
I was born and raised in Greenwich Village New York – a true native New Yorker. My father is a flamenco guitarist and my mother who was born and raised in Ireland used to sing for fun- they love that I am finally getting to follow my bliss with music. Our apartment was always alive with music. Cher was my favorite when I was really little because she looked like me – dark hair/olive skin which there wasn’t a lot of back then on tv.
John Denver and Dolly Parton’s records introduced me to the country early on and then I got hooked on the classics – Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, etc.
How or do you connect Hip-Hop to Country music?
Funny enough it was Russell Simmons who connected the dots. He never liked country music ( except mine!) but he always respected the similarity between Hip-Hop and country because they both tell authentic, raw and honest stories about their culture. As soon as he heard my music he said that about how they are in some ways very much the same. Nothing in hip hop or country is trying to be anything but what it is. They both represent the voices of their culture in a way that is undeniably real. People relate to that.
What is it about Country Music that you love?
I can’t say it better than country artist Brad Paisley:
“Well, you’re not supposed to say the word “cancer”, in a song.
And tellin’ folks Jesus is the answer can rub ’em wrong.
It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks,
Little towns, or mama, yeah that might be true.
But this is country music and we do”
That is what I love. The truthful storytelling of country music. It may make you laugh, more often it may make you cry but it will always make you feel.
Are there ways in your music that you weave in your love for earth and animals? Or… does Country Music by nature of the genre do that?
Well, country songs often have lyrics that talk about dogs and there are a number of popular artists like Miranda Lambert who raise a lot of money to save companion animals through their foundations so it’s good to know they are doing that with their success. As for me personally, I weave in my own animals who have passed away as dedications in my music video credits which I hope they know about in Heaven.
Share with us your idols in the genre.
Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, George Strait, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton.
As for current idols Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell, Jon Pardi, Pistol Annies , Brandi Carlile, Blake Shelton. There are so many. I could go on and on and on! Oh… and I really swoon over Easton Corbin’s voice – he sounds so true blue country. It’s on my bucket list to do a duet with him one day.
Talk about how you came to love the music so much and talk about your process.
As a child country music spoke to me in a way no other kind of music did. That never left me. As an adult, I always listened to country radio and as soon as I moved to LA I programmed in GO COUNTRY 105 FM immediately into my Tesla.
And now for some fun stuff… especially since you have such a rich connection to Hip-Hop culture. Name five Hip-Hop/ Country pairings your would love to see as a collaboration.
- Pistol Annies with 50 Cent
- Carrie Underwood and Cardi B
- Jason Aldean with Jay Z
- Cole Swindell with Dr. Dre
- Me and Snoop Dogg
We are definitely gonna wait for that Snoop Dogg.
Simone Reyes music can be found on most streaming services.