Simmons’ strong vision of the cultural phenomenon gave birth to the popular series Def Comedy Jam, Def Poetry Jam, and Run’s House. He also ventured into Hollywood, serving as producer on such films as the Eddie Murphy remake of The Nutty Professor (1996), and on Broadway with Def Poetry. Further projects include the Global Grind, an online multicultural platform of lifestyle content, and his latest foray, the YouTube channel All Def Digital (ADD) that promotes up-and-coming talent.
While his multimillion-dollar empire of businesses that capture the spirit of hip-hop continues to grow, Simmons’ quest for enlightenment and philanthropy is even greater. “I believe all success comes from a connection with your higher self,” says the 57-year-old divorced father of two. “My business rules are rooted in spirituality and are the exact same laws that Jesus Christ, Moses, Muhammad, Mother Teresa, and Lord Buddha have shared in their own lifetimes.”
Simmons outlines his principles of business, spirituality, and success in his two best-selling books Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success (Gotham Books, 2007) and Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All (the latter not about great wealth but spiritual richness). The books originated from a radio series Simmons did on his strategies for success. As he writes in Do You!, “While some people might have preconceived notions about which sort of principles power a ‘hip-hop’ mogul, I wanted to make it clear that my purpose is defined by the power of giving back and sharing. Whereas earlier in my career I admittedly might have been focused on consumption, now I’m focused on giving. It’s more about ‘us’ and less about ‘me.’ ” And while he is a firm advocate of philanthropy, he doesn’t feel it’s necessarily the obligation of those who have made it financially. As he details, “I don’t judge, and everybody can do what they want to do. I like to give more because it makes me happy! People who don’t miss out.”
His philanthropic interests are as varied as his businesses. As chairman of Rush Community Affairs and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Simmons and Civil Rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis founded the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) that utilizes the hip-hop community in everything from getting out the vote to seminars on financial empowerment, along with a focus on education advocacy of at-risk youth in the U.S. Founded with his two brothers, the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation gets inner-city youth involved in the arts, exhibiting the work of about 50 emerging and undiscovered artists in its galleries.