Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network said an economic boycott of Pepsi would start next week unless the company runs an ad featuring the rapper Ludacris that was pulled last year.
“Falling out of favor in the hip-hop community could be very damaging,” Simmons said Wednesday. He also wants Pepsi to issue an apology and donate $5 million to his charity organization.
Pepsi yanked the Ludacris ad in August, a day after Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly ran a segment criticizing the company for using the rapper. O’Reilly questioned Ludacris’ appropriateness as a spokesman based on his song lyrics.
Ludacris is on the Def Jam label, which Simmons founded. His 2001 album “Word of Mouf” includes the song “Move Bitch,” one of his biggest hits.
At a news conference, Simmons said he didn’t have a problem with Pepsi’s decision at the time, and that it was Pepsi’s right to pull the commercial. But he objected when he saw an ad for Pepsi Twist during the Super Bowl that featured the Osbournes, whose MTV show is filled with audio bleeps to block foul language.
“They are being hypocritical in this case,” Simmons said.
Pepsi spokesman Larry Jabbonsky issued a statement saying, “The Ludacris situation was unfortunate for all concerned. We learned from it, and we moved on. We completely understand and respect Russell Simmons’ passion for promoting hip-hop music, and we are working with him and others to do just that.”
Jabbonsky had no comment when asked about Pepsi’s reaction to the prospect of a boycott.
Simmons said the boycott, which would start Feb. 12, would apply to Pepsi and its subsidiary companies, whose products include Mountain Dew, Aquafina water and Lipton’s Iced Tea.
“In hip-hop,” he said, “our idea is if you don’t want us, we don’t want you.”