Chairman & CEO
Russell Simmons has been instrumental in bringing hip-hop to every facet of business and media since its inception in the late 1970s: in music with the co-founding of the immensely successful original Def Jam Recordings; in the fashion industry with the trail-blazing Phat Farm, Baby Phat, Run Athletics, and Def Jam University clothing lines; in film with Simmons Lathan Media Group; in television with HBO's "The Def Comedy Jam" and "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry"; on Broadway with the Tony Award winning stage production "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway"; in the financial services industry with UniRush and its RushCard and Baby Phat RushCard; in fine jewelry with The Simmons Jewelry Co; in video gaming, mobile communications and other industries utilizing the internationally recognized Def Jam brand through Def Jam Enterprises; and in the community with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. Marking his active return to the recording industry, in 2005 the Russell Simmons Music Group (RSMG) was formed as a 50/50 joint label with the Island Def Jam Music Group. Russell is a sought-after public speaker and regularly addresses audiences ranging from public school children and university students to corporate executives and community leaders.
Russell, 49, is a native New Yorker who attended City College of New York. His interests extend far beyond the business world, and he spends a great deal of his time and considerable energy working for social, political, and philanthropic causes, pushing hip-hop on to new plateaus of power and relevance. Along with his brothers Danny Simmons and Joseph "Rev. run" Simmons, he founded Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in 1995. 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. Following the historic Hip-Hop Summit he organized in June 2001, Russell founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) 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 Hip-Hop Team Vote, a 50-city grassroots force that worked throughout 2004 to register and mobilize young voters across the country. Currently, Russell also serves at the Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening relations between ethnic communities.
Russell and his ventures are driven by a personal and corporate belief that hip-hop is an enormously influential agent for social change, which must be responsibly and proactively utilized to fight the war on poverty and ignorance.
Russell and his wife Kimora Lee have two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.