By Todd Williams Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
Todd Williams is senior editor for HipHopBlog.com and has contributed content to XXL, Creative Loafing and numerous other hip hop and music publications for over 12 years and worked in independent film and music for five years.
"The Godfather of Hip Hop."
For anyone else, a title such as this would sound hyperbolic. But for Russell Simmons, even 'Godfather' may be an understatement. The man who put hip hop on the global map, Simmons began as a Queens promotor who managed legendary rapper Kurtis Blow in the late 70s/early 80s. From there, as has been well-documented, Simmons helped launch Run-DMC into orbit, founded the Def Jam label, signed some of the most legendary artists in hip hop (including LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys) and became the industry's first true hip hop mogul.
Today, Russell Simmons remains an omnipresent force in the world of hip hop business and culture. Reportedly the 3rd richest figure in Hip Hop with an estimated net worth of $110 million, his Phat Farm fashion imprint remains one of the more successful urban fashion lines on the market, with his newest menswear line, Argyleculture, exclusively being sold and marketed by Macy's department stores. Simmons' GlobalGrind.com is one of the most prominent hip hop and pop culture sites online and he is also a contributing blogger to HuffingtonPost.com.
Echoing his success in the late 80s/early 90s with HBOs "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam," Simmons also teamed up with comedian JB Smoove have teamed up with television network Comedy Central to air a special "Stand-Up at The El Rey." Simmons is readying the release of his latest book, Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All.
Last year, Simmons was named Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Slavery Memorial and he helped mobilize funds to assist victims of the 2009 earthquake in Haiti. He also voiced his support for a proposed $100 million mosque being built near Ground Zero in Manhattan. The mogul placed religious symbols on the pane of his penthouse and also wrote messages like "It's the Law" and "USA Is Free," in his support of the controversial project. He has also supported the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and teamed up with several New York rappers for a rally called "Tsunami of Peace," which focused on quelling violence in New York City.
Russell Simmons, as the man most responsible for transforming hip hop into a global phenomenon, remains one of the most respected voices in the industry and in hip hop culture. As an entrepreneur, he continuously serves as an example for every b-boy that wants to grow into a businessman.