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Lyor Cohen - man on a mission

By Ewan Ramsbottom | 22 November 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, 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. Cohen went on to work as an executive at Def Jam, the outfit reportedly founded by Rick Rubin in his New York college dormitory, and arguably the most profitable and high-profile rap record label of them all.

Cohen became president of Def Jam/ RAL in 1988, at which point Rubin quit the company. His many years at the helm saw him oversee Def Jam’s departure from its parent company Sony, and its merger with fellow corporate giants PolyGram, Universal and Island, before moving across to the Warner group. More recently, he founded his own independent label, 300, bringing through present-day names such as Young Thug, Fetty Wap and Migos in the process.

The list of artists over whom Cohen has had corporate control - including negotiating endorsement deals outside of their music output - reads like a who’s-who of A-listers, spanning the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Method Man, Redman, Ja Rule, Ludacris, Foxy Brown and so many others. By late 2016, Cohen had taken up a position with Google’s YouTube brand as Global Head of Music.

Cohen has been the target of harsh words from Damon Dash, who was Jay-Z’s original business partner in Roc-A-Fella (nice name) Records, and himself a high-flying executive until his label was acquired by Def Jam in 2004, which saw Jay-Z being appointed as its president, and Dash being effectively ousted. In a 2014 video interview, Dash criticised “the puppet master” for his financial exploitation of black culture:

“My beef was with Lyor because I think he’s a fake CEO, and I think he’s frontin’ on my culture… I’m calling him out publicly, and I want him to stop trying to rape my culture. Go make some money with some other people…

"… It’s the perfect example of what they always do to us. They try to offer some paper bag of money, or whatever it is, whatever selfish agenda which is the test, and then have us divide, so they can benefit and take the fight off of them.”

(Dash was dating the singer Aaliyah at the time she died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22, and had stated that they had planned to marry. More recently, he has linked with entrepreneur Dez White, with whom he is said to have been developing a new fingerprint payment technology - part of the incoming cashless Transhumanist society.)

For his part, in an interview on Hanukkah Radio, in which the host speaks of “a celebration of Judaism in Hip-Hop,” Cohen admitted that Jewish executives have always controlled black entertainment:

“Jewish people have always been involved in urban cultural arts, all the way back to the early beginnings of Jazz music. It’s just something that’s always happened.”

Cohen was the subject of a video from the Vigilant Citizen site entitled, ‘The Tall Israeli That Runs the Rap Industry.’ It included two Twitter posts from Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, which stated:

“The music industry is NOT a game, it’s a business enveloping a craft…”

And, in obvious reference to record executives Clive Davis, Jimmy Iovine, Lyor Cohen and LA Reid:

“These Clives, Jimmys, Lyors, LAs, etc, look at black people as less than, and don’t consider themselves family…”

VC ends the video with a clip from Ice Cube’s song ‘Record Company Pimpin,’ in which Cube delivers a scathing commentary on the corporate exploitation of artists. VC observes, however, that the cover for the album on which the track is included, somewhat ironically features Ice Cube rendering the tired old one-eye pose. It’s not the first, nor the last time that an artist has appeared to be making an incisive, independent statement, but where other aspects of their persona appear to be puzzlingly at odds with such a stance.

Interestingly, when rapper N.O.R.E. once described Cohen as “the most important man in the whole music game,” and “a mogul,” he responded by stating he’s not comfortable with the term and prefers to think of himself as “a humble servant.” Cohen has been pictured flashing up the ‘666’ and ‘Baphomet’ hand signs, which casts interesting light on his ‘servant’ credentials.

Tellingly, the first sentence of a mainstream article on about Cohen, states:

“If there were a shadowy Illuminati controlling the world of rap, Lyor Cohen would be its all-seeing eye, the man behind the scenes, pulling the strings of the most powerful players and reaping the benefits.”

In his formative years, Cohen worked at the Beverly Hills office of Bank Leumi. This turns out to be an influential Zionist institution that was trying to establish a Jewish state in Palestine decades before World War 2.

In its incisive article titled ‘The Tall Israeli Who Runs Hip Hop: An Investigation into Engineered Culture and Bankers,’ the website observes:

“When investigating the money trail of social engineers - people who influence social trends, often to the detriment of society and toward the empowerment of the powers-that-be - the road always seems to lead back to bankers. In fact, bankers are often some of the highest-level power players, higher than government and corporate power.

“It is inherently in the interest of power to engineer society, and to steer people’s culture in a direction that benefits their system. The financial system is obviously propped up by instilling a culture in people that worships money.”

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