Hip hop magnate Russell Simmons’ controversial “sex tape” of Harriet Tubman was financed by YouTube, Dreamworks and Vivendi.
Simmons announced a partnership between the Universal Music Group, YouTube, and his company, All Def Digital, in July. Simmons is the majority shareholder of the website Global Grind, where news of the arrangement first broke.
“The label will leverage the All Def Digital platform, a new channel and forthcoming multi-channel network on YouTube founded by Russell Simmons and Brian Robbins with funding from YouTube,” the site reported, “which will produce cutting edge programming featuring an array of culturally diverse talent.”
“I look forward to working with the extraordinary talent from the vastly creative YouTube ecosystem in the same way I’ve worked with musicians, poets, comedian and designers all my life,” Simmons said in his statement. “This is the most exciting new terrain for me, to move talent across all media platforms and I couldn’t have better partners in [actor] Brian [Robbins] and [music mogul] Steve [Rifkind], and the most innovative of music executives, Lucian Grainge [of Universal Music Group].”
Simmons’ All Def Digital announced the Harriet Tubman sex tape on August 14th and listed AwesomenessTV, a wholly owned subsidiary of DreamWorks, as a partner. Universal Music Group is owned by Vivendi.
“I’ve worked my entire professional life to promote up-and-coming talent and the new art forms they create and YouTube is the perfect platform for this new generation,” said Simmons. “Just as our talent will benefit from being able to engage directly with their fans, YouTube will benefit from having a network that reflects the incredible diversity of the new America.”
Simmons attracted swift criticism this week when his YouTube-financed film “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” depicted an actress portraying Harriet Tubman having sex with her slave master in order to run the Underground Railroad. “Oh, Massa, all these years I’ve been acting like I didn’t enjoy our special time together,” … “But tonight, that’s all going to be different,” the actress playing Tubman said in the clip.
The three-minute video was posted to the All Def Digital YouTube page on Wednesday and featured a parody of Tubman performing sex acts with a white slave owner while another slave filmed them from a closet, to blackmail the slave owner into giving his slaves freedom.
Variety reported Wednesday that the clip contained “edgy material that seems aimed at courting controversy.”
After the video started trending on Twitter, Simmons apologized on his Global Grind website and revealed that he was contacted by his “buddies” at the NAACP who asked him to take down the video, which he did.
University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor Anthea Butler, has attacked Simmons for insensitivity to slavery and even said that he “is worse than Paula Deen.”
Civil rights activist Najee Ali — director of Project Islamic Hope — is urging a boycott of Russell Simmons’s business interests in response to the Tubman video and what he calls Simmons’ “weak” apology.
YouTube prohibits videos which depict gratuitous violence or hate speech.
Requests for comment from YouTube, Vivendi, Google and DreamWorks went unanswered.