Russell Simmons has been the leader in bringing the powerful influence of hip-hop culture to every facet of business and media since its inception in the late 1970s through current day, in which its integration into mainstream American Culture means an entirely new, post-racial, progressive America. Simmons’ businesses have always been rooted in giving a powerful voice to emerging creative and social movements, and integrating them into the American psyche. His business successes have spanned music, film, television, fashion, the jewelry industry, video games, online and financial services; his activism has encompassed all of the areas touched by his businesses, including poverty, education and ignorance.
From producing and/or managing such early hip-hop artists as Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Will Smith and the Beastie Boys to signing seminal luminaries like Jay Z, LL Cool J and Ludacris to his iconic record label, Def Jam Recordings, Simmons’ groundbreaking vision and the cultural revolution became the international phenomenon now known as hip-hop.
Following his departure from Def Jam, in 1999, Russell created a fashion empire in Phat Farm, which begat Baby Phat and Run Athletics, and put the definitive stake in the ground for urban streetwear, to which others followed including: Roc-A-Wear, Sean John, Derion, Enyce, Ecko and many others.
His film and television production company with partner Stan Lathan, Simmons Lathan Media Group, created the wildly successful HBO series, “Def Comedy Jam “ (8 million DVDS sold), “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” and “HBO Presents Brave New Voices,” the Hollywood box office success “The Nutty Professor,” the Tony Award-winning stage production “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway,” the international hit on MTV “Run’s House,” and most recently the successful first season of “Running Russell Simmons.”
Simmons’ activism has grown out of his many years of traveling and advocating nationally and internationally on behalf of his brands. Social justice, education inclusion and financial empowerment come directly from his work in music, fashion, entertainment and financial services.
In 2007, Simmons released the wildly successful book entitled “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” which combined effective business practices with a spiritual foundation to be the best you can be. The book was a New York Times bestseller, and was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. This was followed up in 2011 with a second New York Times bestseller, “Super Rich: Inside and Out” about the power of inward strength and reflection as a means of achieving human aspiration.
Russell is a native New Yorker who attended City College of New York. He has two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.