Rapper-preacher Rev Run says prayer, hard work keys to success
Rev Run listens as UD's Yasser Arafat Payne poses a question before a large crowd at the Trabant University Center.
Rev Run responds to a question.
Rev Run offered a simple formula for life, centered on hard work, prayer and fun.


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1:23 p.m., March 3, 2010----Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons offers the following formula for a balanced and fulfilling life -- “get up, work, have some fun, pray, go to bed and do it again the next day.”

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Simmons shared his recipe for success to a sold out audience of 800 enthusiastic students and fans on Tuesday evening, March 2, at the Trabant University Center.

Simmons' talk, sponsored by the University of Delaware's Cultural Programming Advisory Board, was part of part of a series of events marking Black History Month 2010 at UD.

The presentation, “Words of Wisdom with Rev Run,” featured the hip hop and rap icon and host of the popular MTV hit reality show Run's House fielding questions from Yasser Arafat Payne, assistant professor of Black American Studies at UD.

After greeting the audience with “What's up? Let's hear some noise out there,” Simmons began by recalling his childhood and background, growing up in Hollis, Queens, New York, as the youngest of brothers Danny and hip hop visionary and entrepreneur Russell.

“Everything to me was bigger than life. My whole house was full of this incredible energy of people with this incredible swagger and control of the neighborhood,” Simmons said, adding, “Russell was just cool. He knew karate.”

Simmons said he was interested in music from a young age and “I would ask my brothers about finding WBLS (107.5 FM on the radio dial in New York City). I don't think my brothers ever told me, but a friend told me to turn the dial all the way to the end, and just turn it back a little.”

While Simmons said he still carries the “flavor” of his hip hop experience, family has become the number one thing in his life.

“My children know what they are doing, but they also know that they can talk to their dad if they need to,” Simmons said. “I don't bring any condemnation. Sometimes they try things their way, and then they come back and might try it my way.

On the importance of being involved in a committed relationship, Simmons said he tries to follow the advice and wisdom of the Hindu proverb, “Listen to the whispers so that you do not have to hear the screams.”

“If you are going to have a relationship, you have to be home,” Simmons said. “I'm into my wife and my kids. If you are attentive, the relationship will grow.”

When asked by Payne about the percentage of black children living in poverty and the high divorce rate, Simmons said it comes down to black men feeling marginalized by the success of black women in the workplace.

“The black man feels put down. His wife goes out and takes the bigger job, and he feels left out and that he is not respected,” Simmons said. “It really is about a power struggle.”

Described now as man of faith with the presence of God in his life, Simmons said the church offers many positive role models for young people in the black community.

“There are a lot of father figures in the black church, and it is serving the needs of the black community,” Simmons said. “There is always something going on in church, including Bible study. When you find the people that you would like to become, you also find heroes, and you find out that you can become one, too.”

Simmons said he uses the same hip hop energy in helping to spread the word about his faith and the importance of being part of a church community. “It takes both the Rev and the Run to get things up and running,” Simmons said.

On success in any career or personal journey, Simmons advised, “Do your best and forget the rest. If you take short cuts, you will get cut short.”

Instead of believing you are going right to the top without paying any dues, Simmons advises beginners to take an internship approach and to make the value of their contributions readily apparent by their hard work and persistence.

“When you become irreplaceable, you can go from being the intern to being the president,” Simmons said. “When your stuff is that good, those in charge will find you out.”

The same approach to achieving and understanding the nature of success also can be beneficial for those pursuing music careers, Simmons noted.

“When you are hot, you can take your CD and throw it down the street, have a truck run over it, and it will still come back and keep being played,” Simmons said. “You will get your butt kicked, but if you keep on working you will get to the top.”

Having achieved success in diverse careers, Simmons said he is a believer in the power of prayer and the need to tithe, giving 10 percent of his earnings each year to the church.

“Pray like everything depends on your prayers,” Simmons said. “Work like everything depends on you. Pray and work, but don't mix them.”

Simmons said many successful careers begin with regular jobs, even what he called “little knick-knack” jobs.

“You don't give up your day job while you pursue your passion, but remember what your passion is,” Simmons said. “By faith and hard work and using your own talent you don't have to part of any cycle of failure.”

On the idea of taking sides on the old school versus new school rap music question, Simmons said, “There is enough out there for everybody.”

“The idea of youth disrespecting their elders is like the branches disrespecting the tree,” Simmons said. “You are the roots and you are the ground.”

When asked about what he wanted his legacy to be, Simmons said, “I want it to be what I'm doing right now. To see all these people who came out to see me tonight is great. I'm extremely happy that so many people came here.”

Simmons closed his hour of personal reflection by reminding members of the audience, who gave him a standing ovation, to “Preach on a Sunday / Rap on a Monday. Just because I wear a collar / Doesn't mean I can't earn a dollar.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Doug Baker