Russell Simmons

Last updated
Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Simmons at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Mansome
Born
Russell Wendell Simmons

(1957-10-04) October 4, 1957 (age 61)
NationalityAmerican
Alma mater City College of New York
OccupationCo-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, All Def Digital, Global Grind, Def Pictures, Argyleculture, Tantris, American Classics
Music Producer
Author
Net worthIncrease2.svg $340 million (2011) [1]
Spouse(s)
Kimora Lee
(m. 1998;div. 2009)
Children2
Relatives Joseph Simmons (brother)
Daniel Simmons, Jr. (brother)
Website Rush Communications

Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) [2] is an American entrepreneur, record producer, and author. The chair and CEO of Rush Communications, he co-founded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings [3] and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons's net worth was estimated at $340m in 2011. [1]

Record producer individual who oversees and manages the recording of an artists music

A record producer or music producer oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer's music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album. A producer has many, varying roles during the recording process. They may gather musical ideas for the project, collaborate with the artists to select cover tunes or original songs by the artist/group, work with artists and help them to improve their songs, lyrics or arrangements.

An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is thus also a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determines responsibility for what was created.

Def Jam Recordings American record label

Def Jam Recordings is an American record label focused predominantly on hip hop and urban music, owned by Universal Music Group. In the UK, the label takes on the name Def Jam UK and is operated through Virgin EMI Records, while in Japan, it is known as Def Jam Japan, operating through Universal Music Japan. The label distributes releases of various record labels, including Kanye West's GOOD Music, and Listen Up Forever Records, headed by producer, Ronny J. Current artists include Justin Bieber, Logic, Big Sean, Kanye West, Nas, 2 Chainz, Teyana Taylor, YG, Dave East, Jeezy, Jeremih, Q-Tip, Valee, Pusha T, Vince Staples, Fabolous, Desiigner and Jhené Aiko.

Contents

Early life and education

Simmons was born and raised in Queens, New York. [4]

His father was a public school administrator and his mother was a New York City park administrator. His brothers are painter Daniel Simmons Jr., and Rev Run of Run-DMC. In 1975, after graduating from August Martin High School, Simmons briefly attended the City College of New York in Harlem where he met a young DJ/Bboy, Kurt Walker, who influenced him to participate in the hip-hop phenomenon. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Daniel "Danny" Simmons Jr. is a neo-African abstract expressionist painter, father of Jamel Simmons, and the older brother of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons. He is the co-founder and Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides disadvantaged urban youth with arts access and education. As part of Rush Philanthropic, Simmons also founded Rush Arts Gallery and soon thereafter converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Both galleries provide exhibition opportunities to early and mid-career artists who do not have commercial representation through galleries or private dealers. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long-running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As the Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn't Find My Way Home. He has also published " Deep in your best reflection" and "the Brown beatnik tomes", two additional volumes of poetry. In 2015 Simmons moved to Philadelphia and opened Rush Arts Philadelphia gallery to further the Rush Arts mission and to begin to create a national presence for the service organization.

Joseph Simmons minister and rapper: member of Run-D.M.C.

Joseph Ward Simmons, better known by the stage name Run, Rev. Run or DJ Run, is a musician, rapper and actor. Simmons is one of the founding members of the influential hip hop group Run–D.M.C. He is also a practicing minister, known as Reverend Run.

Run-DMC American hip hop group

Run-DMC was an American hip hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York, founded in 1981 by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jason Mizell. Run-DMC is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture and one of the most famous hip-hop acts of the 1980s. Along with LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy, the group pioneered new school hip-hop music. Run-DMC was the first group in the genre to have a gold album and be nominated for a Grammy Award. They were the first to earn a platinum record, the first to earn a multiplatinum certification, the first to have their videos broadcast on MTV, and the first to appear on American Bandstand and the cover of Rolling Stone. Run-DMC was the only hip hop act to perform at Live Aid in 1985.

Upon hearing Eddie Cheeba perform in Harlem in 1977, Simmons knew that hip hop would be his career. [10] Simmons stated, "Hearing Cheeba in '77 made me feel like I had just witnessed the invention of the wheel." [10]

Eddie Cheeba was a pioneering DJ in New York in the 1970s, considered to be the number one club DJ.

Harlem Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, New York, United States

Harlem is a large neighborhood in the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem's history has been defined by a series of economic boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle.

In 2014, Claremont Lincoln University awarded Russell Simmons an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters for his work as chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and for promoting mindfulness, compassion and interreligious collaboration in the public sphere. [11]

Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) is non-profit, regionally accredited online graduate university offering master's degrees in Social Impact, Interfaith Action and Organizational Leadership with concentrations in Civic Engagement, Ethics, Healthcare and Human Resources. Incorporated into each program are a sequence of core courses designed to develop human capacities for awareness of self and others, dialogue, collaboration and strategies for change.

Foundation for Ethnic Understanding

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) is a not-for-profit organization based in New York that focuses on improving Muslim–Jewish relations and black–Jewish relations. FFEU was founded in 1989 by Rabbi Marc Schneier and theatrical producer and director Joseph Papp. The goals of the organization are in part motivated by the historical cooperation between African Americans and Jewish Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. Russell Simmons joined the Board of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 2002 as Chairman of the Board. In 2007, the Foundation began its program in Muslim–Jewish Relations and has since hosted the First National Summit of Imams and Rabbis, two European conferences of Muslim and Jewish Leaders, three Missions of Muslim and Jewish Leaders to Washington D.C., and has held the annual program "The Weekend of Twinning" each November since 2008.

Career

Russell Simmons Russell Simmons.jpg
Russell Simmons

Simmons co-founded Def Jam in 1983 with Rick Rubin, who sold his share of the company for $120 million to Universal Music Group in 1996. In 1985, Simmons co-produced and appeared in the film Krush Groove . [12] Simmons' company, Rush Communications Inc., includes over ten businesses and three non-profits. Simmons, with his partner Stan Lathan, has also produced television hits HBO's Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam , and currently has a development deal with HBO. [3] [13] In 1996, Simmons co-produced the hit film The Nutty Professor , starring Eddie Murphy. [14] In 2003, Simmons co-founded RushCard, a prepaid debit card provider. [15] [16]

Rick Rubin American music producer

Frederick Jay Rubin is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.

Universal Music Group American music corporation

Universal Music Group is an American global music corporation that is a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. UMG's global corporate headquarters are located in Santa Monica, California. It is considered one of the "Big Three" record labels, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Since 2004, the corporation is no longer related to the film studio Universal Studios.

<i>Krush Groove</i> 1985 film by Michael Schultz

Krush Groove is a 1985 American film by Warner Bros. that was written by Ralph Farquhar and directed by Michael Schultz. This film is based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record producer Russell Simmons, portrayed by Blair Underwood in his feature film debut. Simmons was the film's co-producer and story consultant; he also had a cameo in the film as a club owner named Crocket.

In 1992, Simmons launched the clothing line Phat Fashions LLC using the Phat Farm and Phat Baby labels. When Simmons first created Phat Fashions LLC, the clothing line was sold in a shop in the SoHo district of Manhattan. Simmons's connections with well known rap artists helped to promote the clothing line to a wide audience. The influence of designers such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger gave the clothing line a classic look and feel. Phat Fashions encompassed not only hip hop clothing for men, but also women and children. Phat Fashions grew into a lifestyle brand with the addition of jewelry, perfume, and other merchandise. Phat Fashions LLC sold merchandise in two stores in New York and Montreal as well as online at www.phatfarm.com. In addition, the clothing line was carried by some 3,000 retailers in the United States. [17]

In 2004, Simmons sold Phat Farm and Baby Phat to the Kellwood Company for $140 million. [18]

Russell Simmons, along with his brothers Danny Simmons and Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in 1995. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide art education and support to under-serviced youth by helping people of color access the arts and by providing exhibition opportunities. The Foundation serves about 3,000 students annually and maintains two galleries. The Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan and the Corridor Gallery in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn exhibit the work of more than 100 community and emerging artists. [19]

Personal life

Marriage

Simmons and model Kimora Lee met in November 1992. They married on December 20, 1998, [20] on the island of Saint Barthélemy. They have two daughters, Ming Lee (born 2000) and Aoki Lee (born 2002). In March 2006, Simmons announced that he and Lee had ended their relationship; [20] they officially divorced two years later. [21]

Beliefs

Simmons describes himself as a Christian yogi, with a love and respect for all religions. Simmons practices a method of yoga known as Jivamukti Yoga, [22] which encourages vegetarianism and social and environmental activism.

Simmons is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM) [23] and a supporter of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which was established to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice TM can do so. [24]

Social activism

Simmons has been vegan since 1999 and advocates Ahimsa and veganism, citing animal rights along with the environmental and health benefits. [3] [4] [25] Simmons is a supporter of Farm Sanctuary, an organization working to end cruelty to farm animals. [26] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals awarded him the 2001 PETA Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Person of the Year Award. [27] [28]

In 2009, Simmons organized thousands of protestors and hip-hop celebrities in front of city hall demanding change of the harsh sentencing of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. [29]

Simmons became chairman of the board of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 2002. [30] In May 2009, he was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Slavery Memorial at the United Nations to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. [31] In a similar vein, Simmons is a supporter of the Somaly Mam Foundation, [32] and was honored at their 2011 gala dinner. [33] Simmons officially endorses the second Muslim Jewish Conference 2011. Together with Rabbi Marc Schneier he served as the official patron of the conference held July 2011 in Kiev, Ukraine. In 2011, he took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests, visiting the protesters at Zuccotti Park often and for many consecutive days.

Simmons is also a longtime supporter for gay rights. He encourages marriage equality. [34] In 2011, when the retail corporation Lowe's withdrew funding from the show All-American Muslim , Simmons promised to pay the Learning Channel for any revenue lost. [35]

In 2012, Simmons supported Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich's re-election campaign, appearing with the politician at various speaking events. [36] In November 2013, he pledged support for New York's mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio in recognition of his support for animal rights. [37]

In 2015, Simmons criticized his friend, real estate developer and future United States president Donald Trump, in an open letter after Trump called for Muslim immigrants to be barred from entering the United States. [38]

In 2017, Simmons was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 23 in the list of 200 Most Influential Social-Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists Worldwide. [39] [40]

Harriet Tubman sex tape controversy

In August 2013, Simmons launched the controversial "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape" parody video on his YouTube channel, "All Def Digital", which led to public outrage and many critics demanding an apology. The video featured an actress portraying the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) having sex with her slave owner with the intent of filming the act and blackmailing him to convince him to work on the Underground Railroad. [41] Women from his own community, as well as filmmaker Spike Lee, [42] were offended by the controversial comedy sketch. [43]

Rolling Stone published Simmons' apology for the parody in which he said:

I'm a very liberal person with thick skin. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there's still tremendous injustice," Simmons wrote. "And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset.

I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry. [44]

Despite his apology in 2013, the nature of shareable digital media has allowed the comedy video to continue to circulate on YouTube and around the web. [45]

Sexual misconduct and assault allegations

Background

In November 2017, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of sexually assaulting her in 1991, when she was seventeen. Simmons and Brett Ratner, who was accused by Khalighi of watching them without intervening when she asked for his help, both deny that the encounter was non-consensual. [46]

As the allegation was covered in the press, Terry Crews accused Simmons of attempting to influence him to take back sexual assault allegations that Crews had recently brought up against film executive Adam Venit, asking that Crews "give him a pass ... ask that he be reinstated." Crews posted a screenshot of the alleged e-mail he had received from Simmons on his Twitter account. [47] [48] [49] [50]

On November 30, 2017, writer Jenny Lumet claimed that Simmons had assaulted her in 1991. In response, Simmons said he would step down from his positions with his businesses. [51] On the same day, HBO announced that they would be removing Simmons's name and his likeness from his stand-up comedy specials starting with the December 1 episode.

On December 13, 2017, The Los Angeles Times published an investigative report in which five women accused Simmons of sexual misconduct; including an alleged rape. On the same day, The New York Times published the accounts of four other women who accused Simmons of inappropriate conduct; including three alleged rapes. In response to the allegations, Simmons stated he "never had a sexual encounter that was not consensual or lawful. Ever." [52]

On February 9, 2018, Simmons denied the allegations to Rolling Stone , saying (in part), "I vehemently deny all the allegations made against me. They have shocked me to my core as I have never been abusive or violent in any way in my relations with women. I am blessed to have shared extraordinary relationships, whether through work or love, with many great women and I have enormous respect for the women's movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power. I am devastated by any reason I may have given to anyone to say or think of me in the ways that are currently being described. I have separated myself from my businesses and charities in order to not become a distraction." [53]

On April 25, 2018, Jennifer Jarosik, a filmmaker who alleged Simmons raped her, dropped her lawsuit. The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Jarosik can not refile allegations in court. [54]

Accusers

A number of women, some of whom were aged seventeen at the time of the alleged incidents, have accused Simmons of sexual harassment, assault or rape:

Sexual harassment or assault

Women who said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted (including attempted rape) by Simmons include:

  1. Kelly Cutrone, publicist and author. [55]
  2. Keri Claussen Khalighi, model. [56]
  3. Lisa Kirk, an acquaintance of Simmons.
  4. Toni Sallie, music journalist.
  5. Amanda Seales, actor and comedian (verbal harassment).
  6. Natashia Williams-Blach, actress.
  7. Luann de Lesseps, reality television personality [57]

Rape

Women who said they had been raped by Simmons include:

  1. Jenny Lumet, screenwriter.
  2. Sherri Hines, musician. [58]
  3. Tina Baker, singer-turned-lawyer.
  4. Drew Dixon, former music recording executive.
  5. Jennifer Jarosik, filmmaker. [59]

Resignation

After the third assault allegation was published in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter November 2017 by Jenny Lumet, Simmons stepped down from his role in the label Def Jam Records, along with his yoga lifestyle brand, other media properties and CNNMoney. Jenny Lumet is the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and the granddaughter of singer and civil rights activist Lena Horne. Lumet wrote: "As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color. ... I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don't think you are inclined to protect mine." [60] [61] [62]

HBO decided to remove Russell Simmons' name from "All Def Comedy", a series he created to launch and showcase emerging comedians. [63]

Bibliography

Simmons has written several books that reflect his experiences in the entertainment business and his personal beliefs.

Related Research Articles

Harriet Tubman African-American abolitionist and humanitarian

Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the United States Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the struggle for women's suffrage.

Ronan Farrow American human rights activist, freelance journalist, lawyer and government official

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Baby Phat urban fashion line of clothing and other items for women and girls

Baby Phat is an American apparel brand developed by model and entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons in 1999. The brand is the high-end line of Russell Simmons' Phat Fashions LLC label, and is carried in mid-market department stores, including Macy's and Dillard's. The label caters to female urban wear. In 2004, the label's parent company was acquired by Kellwood Company for $140 million.

Lyor Cohen CEO

Lyor Cohen is an American music industry executive. Cohen has been actively involved in hip hop at various record labels for more than 30 years. He started by managing rappers for Rush Productions, then led Def Jam. After Def Jam, Cohen took on a leadership role at Warner Music Group. In September 2012, Cohen put in his resignation at Warner and started his own independent label, 300 Entertainment. On September 28, 2016, Cohen was named YouTube's Global Head of Music.

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