By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Become a Christian entrepreneur today Tim Darnell and Mike Melvin will thank you. The 'Pipe said thanks, JC, but no thanks.
He's sitting on a mod, red couch in the hotel's lobby, wearing a Phat Farm T-shirt and texting himself reminders on his Treo. Def Jam Records founder and rap mega-impresario Russell Simmons blends in seamlessly with the 305-chic atmosphere of the Standard, South Beach, where even the housekeeping staff wears Adidas and minibars come stocked with Mr. Bubble and condoms. Simmons is here tonight to take a yoga class, and the yoga class is here to listen to him speak. What's he going to say? Damned if he knows.
"What do you tell a class of yogis that they don't already know?" Simmons says to Loren Russo, his friend and longtime yoga guru while an extremely pliable crowd begins trickling into the studio.
"Why don't you talk about the benefits?" she suggests.
"Benefits! What? That you get a yoga butt?"
At the back of the room, a dreadlocked DJ in oversized headphones begins selecting MP3s from his laptop.
"Oh! I love this song!" Simmons shouts. "I play it at home all the time! Did you know [co-Def Jam founder] Rick Rubin produced this? Thanks, DJ!" He nods along with the music not a dance jam by Timbaland but a peaceful tune by Krishna Das as though he were down the street at a Collins Avenue nightclub.
As Loren guides the class through sung prayers, accompanied by a harmonium and drums, Simmons sits lotus in the center of the now-packed studio. Now it's his moment to inspire the group, which is beginning to resemble a kindergarten class listening to a prenap story. He decides to focus his speech on distraction and how it could stop them from reaching nirvana.
"Just think," begins Simmons, "if we could keep our minds on God and think 'God in, God out' with every breath we could get in sync/operate in order. But then there's this girl in front of you with a great butt! She's in Downward Dog; I'm in Downward Dog. And you're supposed to be keeping your mind on God!"
The DJ chimes in with the Eric B & Rakim hit "Paid in Full," and the class enters a cheerful, high-energy session of asana positions, balance, and handstands.
The sweaty class scatters to the Turkish-style hammam for a little decadence and detox. Past the communal tubs and cold-water showers, the cedar-lined sauna is packed. Simmons, wearing a monk-like Standard-issue robe, is graciously regaling his bendy new entourage with stories, explaining his metamorphosis from a thug who built his fortune "promoting the anger, style, aggression, and attitude of urban America" to his current Zenned-out, vegan, yoga-addicted life.
He recalls his first yoga class in L.A. "There was lots of jewelry and fake boobs. It was all models and actresses and me." He laughs. "I said 'Yeah! Now this is yoga!' From then on, I started going every day."
The room erupts with steamy laughter. A topless girl seated across from Simmons suggests they all do some chanting. Nodding at her breasts, Simmons agrees. "All right! I'll lead it! Come on everybody." He begins a chant that's slightly more familiar than the Hindi lyrics. "You can find me in da club/Bottle full a bub..." As told to Edmund Newton