On the Record offers a detailed look into multiple sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons, fears that Black women have about sharing their stories, and the lack of intersectionality within the #MeToo movement.
In the 97-minute film, which debuted on HBO Max on Wednesday (May 27), former record executive Drew Dixon grapples with her decision to go public with accusations against Simmons, and the concept of “race loyalty” that Black women battle when they’re attacker is a Black man.
Directed and produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, On the Record does a deep dive into the misogyny and sexism permeating through hip-hop. Of course, hip-hop has never been a monolith. The roots of the culture are steeped in protest, and although the genre didn’t invent misogyny or sexism (which is noted in the film), Black women have had an understandably complicated relationship with hip-hop.
“You stand in solidarity with the movement as a Black woman,” Dixon explains. “You don’t parse the sexism within the movement as a Black woman. We were so excited about hip-hop and what it meant that we laughed it off…and now that I’m older I realize that language set a tone. But I didn’t see it that way at the time.”
Dixon, a former A&R at Def Jam, began her music industry career in the early ‘90s as an A&R for Def Jam where she worked with the likes of Redman and Method Man, Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Mary J. Blige, and more.
One night in the mid-1990s, Dixon claims Simmons lured her to his apartment under the pretense of wanting her to listen to a demo track on a stereo located in his bedroom. As Dixon recalls, she walked into the bedroom and attempted to figure out how to turn on the CD player.“The next thing I know he [Simmons] is naked wearing a condom and he just grabbed me…and he threw me in the bed. He wrestles me to the bed and pins me down and I’m fighting and I’m saying ‘no!’ He’s telling me to ‘stop fighting!’ in a very cold, menacing, detached voice that I’d never, ever heard from him before.”
Dixon says she blacked out during the alleged assault. “Which is something survivors often do. It’s like a self-preservation tactic.” The next thing that she remembers is being naked in a tub with Simmons whom she says was casually talking to her as if they had had a consensual encounter. Dixon says she left his apartment, walked 22 blocks home, climbed in the shower and began to sob. “I was reduced to nothing. In that moment, I was trash. Nothing about anything that makes me who I am mattered. I was a physical object. A physical device. Some physical thing that he [Simmons] utilized for his pleasure.”
A few days later, Dixon says that she told a friend and former A&R, Miguel Mojica, about the sexual assault. She also continued working at Def Jam for a “little while longer” before resigning. Dixon went on to work at Arista Records where she says that she endured sexual harassment from L.A. Reid.
Reid denies Dixon’s claims calling the allegations “unfounded, not true, and represent a complete misrepresentation and fabrication of any facts or events alleged therein as having occurred.”
Dixon didn’t speak publicly about the accusations against Simmons and Reid until a 2017 New York Times interview. On the Record chronicles the moments leading up to the article's release, the NYT’s vetting process -- which included an extensive background check-- and the ripple effect that the experience had on Dixon's life and career, namely in that she quit the music industry.
“For 22 years I took one for the team,” she says of keeping allegations against Simmons quiet for decades out of fear of letting “the culture” down and not being believed. “Russell Simmons was the king of hip-hop and I was proud of him. I didn’t want to let the culture down. I loved the culture. I loved Russell too.”
In the film, Dixon also opens up about her children and the life that she built after the music industry. She split from her husband and moved from New York to California to start a new chapter. The film also features a discussion between Dixon and two other Simmons accusers, screenwriter, Jenny Lumet, and Sil Lai Abrams and activist writer, and former Def Jam executive assistant.
More than a dozen women have accused Simmons of sexual assault or misconduct, eight of which are featured in the film. Some of Simmon’s accusers share similar accounts to Dixon’s allegations.
“I have issued countless denials of the false allegations against me,” Simmons notes in a written statement featured in the film. “I have lived my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone.”