Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons first branched out into movies when he acted and co-produced in the 1985 rap movie Krush Groove. Essentially a glorified biography of his own life, with Blair Underwood assuming the role of Simmons, the movie didn't score well with critics but was a box-office success. Another hip-hop based movie followed, 1988's Tougher Than Leather, before Simmons assumed full control of Def Jam when co-founder Rick Rubin left. Almost immediately he set up Rush Communications, dipping his hand in nearly everything from a clothing line, to television comedy, to magazine production. At this time Simmons also began producing movies. Pictures he's backed creatively and/or financially include The Addiction, The Nutty Professor and Gridlock'd.
Biography by Steve Kurutz
- Dropped out of college to begin promoting local musicians, including Kurtis Blow and his brother Joseph's rap group Run-D.M.C.
- In 1984, co-founded Def Jam Records, which launched the music careers of the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.
- Founded Phat Farm clothing company in 1992.
- Created an umbrella firm called Rush Communications that includes a management company, advertising agency, magazine, television shows and movie production company.
- Released his autobiography Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God.
- Was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations.
- Is a vegan and active supporter of PETA.
- Founded the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, which combines concerts with political rallies in order to encourage young people to register to vote.
- Founder of the Rush Philanthropic Organization, which provides underprivileged youth with access to study the arts.