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Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons & friends talk about Simmons’ new men’s jewelry. The Video features actor Mehcad Brooks, nightclub impresario Mark Birnbaum, super cool DJ Cassidy & MLB Pitcher Nelson Figueroa. Great beats and fashion.

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Bling and Bentleys don’t bring true happiness, Russell Simmons says. Not that the hip-hop mogul ever was in it totally for the money, at least not that kind of money, he says.

Somewhere along the way to becoming one of the richest men in rap, with a net worth estimated between $325 million and $500 million, he says it became more important to give back. With a business empire spanning music, television, theater, film and fashion, Simmons is driven by a belief that hip-hop is a powerful change agent. That belief extends to his work for social and philanthropic causes, too.

Simmons chairs four nonprofit foundations and is active in several others. His pet causes include promoting education, financial literacy and voting among young people, as well as providing access to the arts for disadvantaged youth.

“Hip-hop is about creating and maximizing opportunity,” Simmons says. “It is about transforming the American dream into a living reality.”
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The pair met in November 1992 during New York City’s Fashion Week. She was 17 and about to finish high school; he was 35 and a self-admitted ladies man.

“I was skeptical,” model Tyra Banks told PEOPLE in 2002 of her initial reaction to the relationship. But, she said: “She turned the man about town into a loving husband and papa.”

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Russell Simmons is the most important businessman in the history of rap music. As co-founder of the Def Jam label, Simmons’ street-friendly taste and marketing savvy helped bring hip-hop crashing into the mainstream of American culture and mass media.

He’s often been compared to Motown impresario Berry Gordy, but there’s one important difference: Where Gordy strove to make assimilationist R&B that would be considered respectable by pop audiences, Simmons ensured that his artists remained as uncompromisingly rebellious as possible. That attitude made hip-hop a music of choice for a generation of teenagers simply by staying true to its roots; it was a multi-cultural phenomenon that succeeded — more or less — on its own terms. Simmons was the entrepreneur who shepherded rap music into big business, gradually building his own communications company into the largest black-owned enterprise in the industry. By the time he sold Def Jam for 100 million dollars in 1999, he was one of the most respected figures in the rap business, and continued to take an active interest in shaping the culture’s future direction.

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