Def Jam Co-Founder Russell Simmons Talks Partnerships And Leveraging His Successes

Long before “disruption” became a Silicon Valley buzzword, Russell Simmons, 55, was upending paradigms left and right. His Def Jam record label introduced hip-hop to a broader audience, while his Phat Farm clothing line blurred the line between urban and prep. They also made Simmons a wealthy man. Forbes reckons he’s worth about $325 million.

Simmons discussed the evolution of his career and his intentions to upend digital with two new companies, Narrative and All Def Digital, at the Digitas xCulture anniversary celebration on March 27. After the event, Simmons took questions from Grid.

In this case, “Grid” is yours truly! Click here to read what Russell and I talked about.



Lessons from Russell Simmons at Digitas xCulture

Russell Simmons

[Left to right] Digitas’ Ronnie Dickerson, Russell Simmons and GlobalGrind’s Tricia Clarke-Stone at Digitas March 27, 2013

A year ago, Digitas Chicago decided to take its cross-cultural marketing efforts to the next level. They had a vision for equipping employees to deal with a changing multicultural marketplace. It was they who introduced the Digitas xCulture platform last spring, leading to similar programs that launched in New York City and Boston in the fall.

Digitas xCulture frequently hosts speakers ranging from researchers and industry professionals to public figures such as Olympic athletes and singers. To celebrate its first anniversary, hip hop mogul and uber-successful entrepreneur Russell Simmons took the stage with Tricia Clarke-Stone, co-President at, to speak with employees about his experience working with diverse audiences on March 27.

Simmons is a bona fide jack of all trades, able to spot trends long before they go mainstream (in fact, it’s just that talent that helped him succeed in music, fashion and content). He is also known for his emphasis on spirituality and faith in life and business, a perspective that certainly sets him apart from the many numbers-driven magnates we’re used to.

It was precisely this point of view that I found at once intriguing and inspiring as I heard him speak to the hundred or so employees crammed into Digitas’ event space last Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of his best lessons and the whole story.