Russell Simmons is an American music/film producer, entrepreneur, and author, popular for being the co-founder of hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings.
Russell Simmons Bio, Early Life
Russell Wendell Simmons was born on October 4, 1957, in Queens, New York. He grew up rough on the streets of Hollis, a middle-class neighborhood where he was a member of a local gang and made money from selling marijuana. Simmons also frequently promoted block parties and club shows in the neighborhood.
He graduated from August Martin High School in 1975 and proceeded to City College of New York to study Sociology. Subsequently, Russell dropped out of college to pursue a career in hip-hop, a genre of music that was only in its beginning phase at the time.
He founded Rush Management and began promoting local hip-hop acts like Kurtis Blow, and Run-D.M.C. In 1984, Russell collaborated with Rick Rubin to co-found what would become the revolutionary platform for hip-hop music- Def Jam Recordings.
Breakthrough With Def Jam
Russell brought his artists including Kurtis Blow, Run-D.M.C and Beastie Boys to Def Jam and soon included LL Cool J. The latter became the label’s pioneer artist with the hit single “I Need a Beat” released in 1984. The success of the single which sold over 100,000 copies in the US established Def Jam as a top label. LL Cool J’s debut album also sold over 500,000 copies in the space of 5 months, further exposing the label and landing them a giant distribution deal with Columbia Records.
Def Jam soon expanded its lineup to include rappers like Public Enemy, and Oran “Juice” Jones. The label continued to expand as its artists achieved stardom. In an attempt to expose Def Jam and its artists to the mainstream, Russell turned the story behind Def Jam’s formation into a movie entitled “Krush Groove” (1985). He also produced the 1988 Run-D.M.C. film “Tougher Than Leather”.
However, in 1988 Rick Rubin left Def Jam as a result of varying interests leaving Russell as the sole frontman of the burgeoning label. Rick later sold his share in the company to Universal Music Group for $120 million in 1992.
Russell continued to keep his share of the company and subsequently added artists like Ja Rule, DMX, and Foxy Brown. In 1999, UMG completed its acquisition of Def Jam in a $100 million deal with Russell remaining as the chairman.
Russell Simmons Salary and Assets
Asides music production, Russell produced the HBO comedy series Def Jam Comedy Tour in 1991. The series became hugely popular and successful, running for 7 years. The Def Jam Comedy tour is responsible for launching the careers of several African-American comic acts including; Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, and Jamie Foxx.
Russell also produced Def Poetry Jam, a spin-off of Def Comedy Jam which also aired on HBO for five years from 2002 to 2007. His other films include “Nutty Professor” (1996) which helped to relaunch Eddie Murphy‘s career. The movie was a box office hit grossing $274 million from a $54 million budget.
Further expanding his empire, Russell founded the Phat Farm clothing line which became a massive success and included the female version called Baby Phat, which was overseen by his then model wife Kimora Lee. In 2004, Russell sold Phat Farm for $140 million. Despite the sale, Simmons remained active in the clothing line business having founded another apparel label Def Jam University in 2003. Def Jam University was more conservative selling a pair of jeans for $44 compared to Phat Farm’s $80.
His other clothing labels include sports line Run Athletics, and Tantris yoga line. He also owns eyewear line Argyleculture and American Classics.
Russell’s other media ventures include All Def Digital, Def Pictures, Rush Books, Global Grind (celebrity news website) and more. He has authored more than a handful of books and contributes frequently to Huffington Post.
A yoga enthusiast, he opened a luxury yoga studio in West Hollywood California named Tantris in November 2016.
His wealth is estimated at $340 million.
Russell Simmons Girlfriend, Wife, Daughters, Kids
In 1992, Russell attended a fashion week in New York where he met model Kimora Lee who was just aged 17 at the time. Not minding the huge age difference between them, the duo kicked off a romantic relationship which eventually ended up in marriage six years later as they exchanged marital vows on December 20, 1998, in a wedding ceremony which took place on St. Barts, a Caribbean island.
The marriage which lasted for almost ten years produced two daughters – Ming Lee Simmons, born on January 21, 2000, and Aoki Lee Simmons born on August 16, 2002.
Unable to keep the union together due to some “irreconcilable differences” as cited by the couple in their court fillings, they separated in March 2006 and in 2008, Kimora filed for divorce in Los Angeles County Superior Court. They finally parted ways in January 2009.
Following the annulment of the marriage, the couple agreed that until each of their daughters turn 19-and-a-half years old, the sum of $40,000 would be paid by Russell Simmons every month in child support. While Kimora was granted full custody of their children, the ace producer was granted visitation rights.
Judging by his dating history, it is very obvious that Russell has a penchant for gorgeous, younger women. On the average, the well-to-do producer dates women who are 22 years younger than he is.
Presently, he is said to be dating a 44-year-old American actress and former fashion model, Shannon Elizabeth. Rumours about their relationship started flying after the duo stepped out as an item at a Golden Globe party held in January 2014. This was after they also made a joint appearance on the red carpet where Russell was seen holding Elizabeth’s waist.
Russell Simmons Siblings
Born into the family of Daniel and Evelyn Simmons, the hip-hop impresario is the second child among three sons. His older brother is Daniel Simmons Jr. while Joseph Ward Simmons, popularly known by the stage name ‘Run’, is his younger one.
Daniel “Danny” Simmons Jr is a painter and has been the Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation since 1995 as well as its co-founder. He is also the founder of Rush Arts Gallery.
Joseph, on the other hand, was one of the founding members of the American hip hop group Run–D.M.C. in the 1980s and ’90s. He is now an ordained preacher known as Reverend Run.
The three brothers turned out to be successful in their individual endeavors despite the fact that they grew up in an environment destroyed by drugs.
Russell Simmons remains an active vegan and supports animal rights which is against the killing of animals for meat.