The Russell Effect: How Mr Hip Hop Changed Music and Business Forever


Earlier this week on this blog we shared insights from Muhammad Yunus, a man who had an idea that has literally changed the world, and although he works in an entirely different field, the very same can be said of Russell Simmons.

Russell is the Father of Hip Hop music, and has individually created, fostered, promoted and developed that genre of music to be a global force, not just for expressing the urban experience of a generation, but for the creation of wealth.

As he explained in a recent interview, at the ripe old age of 21, Russell Simmons flew economy class to Amsterdam with a rising rap star named Kurtis Blow on a mission to share with the world a little thing called hip-hop. When they landed, the college dropout turned would-be impresario stepped off the plane and found himself being addressed as Mr Simmons. “That was the best payment,” says a man who can touch down on the tarmac in a private jet these days. “It reminded me that I deserved it, that I was doing something worthwhile. I haven’t gotten anything better than that since.”

A quarter century later, having built a half-billion-dollar music and fashion empire, it’s a message he’s delivering to fellow entrepreneurs when he speaks at the Global Leadership Forum in Sydney next week.

While he is a household name in America, those here in Australia may be familiar with his impressive list of achievement including the creation of Def Jam, the pioneering record label he co-founded, which brought hip-hop to urban and suburban teenagers alike and made household names of Run-DMC and LL Cool J. He is also the brains behind Phat Farm, whose sweaters and jeans now share shelf space with Polo and Tommy Hilfiger.

Beyond the energy drink, the debit card, and every other venture bearing his personal stamp, and beyond his work in the fields of charity and political outreach, perhaps the most enduring legacy of Russell Simmons will be his emergence as an entrepreneurial role model, providing guidance both directly and indirectly. If nothing else, he serves as the very case study that was missing when he started out. Humbly, he says: “All of the businesses that I’ve gotten in,” he jokes, “I got in because I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

What has now become known as The Russell Effect has spread elsewhere in hip-hop, with a new class of serial entrepreneurs following his model, and the genius of Simmons is his ability to create buzz, growth and sales in industries with little or no connection to music.  He has follow their personal passion, and made it pay… and then some!  He scoffs at praise of his accomplishments, but does admit that in relation to his own influence as a business leader that for young people: “Maybe because of my luck and success, they believe me.”

To get a personal understanding of The Russell Effect, and to see the man himself in action, it is not too late to book tickets to The Global Leadership Forum, a one-day event that will take place in Sydney on Monday 12 December 2011, proudly supported by Publicity Queen.  To learn more about this event or to book, visit The Growth Faculty‘s website.

Yours in PR

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