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After promoting live shows, he collaborated with Russell Simmons on the creation of their Rush Productions outfit, (later Rush Associated Labels,) and as a road manager for Run-DMC.

Cohen’s artist roster included Kurtis Blow, Whodini, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, and he signed the likes of Slick Rick, EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest to Rush - all major heavyweights.

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It's not the Russell I knew," Cohen said, briskly.

"Young, black America needed to tell its own stories in its own ways [and] those voices couldn't be stifled," he said. Cohen both praised and condemned Def Jam founder Russell Simmons."Russell was the smartest person I knew in the business," Cohen said of his former business partner, whom he credited with having the vision to pull together the "music, art and fashion" that underpinned the burgeoning hip-hop culture of the Eighties.

But he made no excuses for the sexual-assault allegations that led to Simmons stepping down from Def Jam in 2017.

Here are six things we took away from the speech.1. The theme that Cohen returned to over and over was the need to embrace change.

"I love change, I'm open to change, I'm psyched for change," he said early in the talk, describing his 37-year career as being full of "winding zig-zags." While some of his peers were burned out by the unpredictability, Cohen insisted that even his biggest letdowns – like going " million in the red" with Def Jam and being ousted from WMG in a self-described boardroom coup – turned out to be blessings in disguise.


  1. Sep 26, 2015. It's all coming together personally and professionally for hip-hop mogul Lyor Cohen. The former Warner Music boss is planning his wedding to model Xin Li in.

  2. Nov 22, 2017. When it comes to top-level control of the US Hip-Hop industry, there have been few individuals to have exerted as much control over the direction the genre has taken as Lyor Cohen. Born in 1959 to Israeli immigrants in New York, Cohen's career began in Los Angeles in 1984. After promoting live shows.

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