In the mid-1970s, Simmons enrolled in City College of New York but quit to begin promoting rap music. In 1984 he co-founded Def Jam Records and within three years the companies albums such as the Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill,” L. L. Cool J’s “Bigger and Deffer,” and Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell” dominated the black music charts. With the success of the record company, Simmons began to expand his business interests.
In 1990 he founded Rush Communications, in 1991 he started producing “Def Comedy Jam” for HBO Television, in 1992 he launched Phat Pharm Fashions, in 1995 he co-founded Def Pictures, and in 2002 he launched “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam” on HBO. In 2000, Simmons sold his share of Def Jam Records for more than $100 million.
He is one of the richest people in hip hop and in 1995 founded Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation to direct funding to non-profit organizations that provide arts and education programming to New York City youth. In 2009, Simmons was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nation Slavery Memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Simmons published his autobiography, “Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God,” in 2001.