Russell Simmons

Published November 10, 2010

Named by USA Today as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” Russell Simmons is a hip-hop pioneer, known for his groundbreaking vision influencing music, fashion, finance, television and film.

Simmons is also actively changing the face of modern philanthropy and in May 2009, he was honored by the United Nations and as the Goodwill Ambassador for the Permanent Memorial To Honor the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

From producing and managing such early hip-hop artists as Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Whodini and the Beastie Boys, to signing luminaries like Jay-Z, Foxy Brown and Ludacris, Simmons’ vision was crystallized with partner Rick Rubin in the creation of the seminal Def Jam Recordings in 1984, launching the cultural revolution known as hip hop. Russell Simmons has been the master architect of that phenomenon, envisioning and creating the trends in popular culture. His early fashion empire, Phat Farm, which begat Baby Phat and Run Athletics, put the definitive stake in the ground for hip-hop clothing and others followed. Simmons’ newest ventures include two timeless clothing collections - Argyleculture and American Classics.

His film and television production company, Simmons Lathan Media, a partnership with Stan Lathan, created the wildly successful HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” “The Nutty Professor,” the Tony Award-winning stage production “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway” and the international hit on MTV, “Run’s House.” Simmons has put his imprint on the financial services industry, as well, leveling the playing field for all to have access to the American Dream with the Unirush Company’s RushCard. In 2006, Simmons broke new ground yet again, becoming the first African American to launch a major jewelry company, Simmons Jewelry Co. (SJC), with partner and SJC president, Scott Rauch. Major retail chains followed, carrying the company’s collections, now distributed to over 2000 stores. This past spring Russell released a new book entitled “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” which combines effective business practices with a spiritual foundation to be the best you can be. The book was a Top 4 New York Times Best Seller, and was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” 

In 1995 he, along with his brothers Danny and Joseph Simmons (Rev. Run of Run DMC), founded Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. The organization is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, as well as offering exhibition opportunities to underrepresented artists and artists of color.

He is also Chairman of Rush Community Affairs and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, dedicated to bringing all religions and ethnicities together. He co-founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) with civil rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis. HSAN’s mission is to harness the cultural relevance of hip-hop music as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the well-being of at-risk youth throughout the United States. Among HSAN’s major initiatives is helping to spearhead the first changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws since 1973

In 2006, after a trip to Africa to see how some diamonds were positively affecting the lives of Africans where they are a natural resource, he created The Diamond Empowerment Fund(D.E.F.) to help Africans help Africa and sensitize the diamond industry to the plight of the Africans.
Russell Simmons is a native New Yorker who attended City College of New York. Russell and Kimora Lee have two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.

Written by BET-Staff

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