Hip-Hop Mogul Stresses Pursuit of Goal

Mukula Dunbar | 3/24/2010, 9:32 a.m.

Russell Simmons Visits Howard University, Encourages Entrepreneurship

The person who introduced Hip-Hop music into mainstream culture more than three decades ago paid a visit to a historically Black college and urged students to take risks, pursue their dreams but to always remember that if they do what they love €" the money will follow.

Russell Simmons, co-founder of the multi-million dollar Def Jam record label, addressed a packed house at Howard University€s Cramton Auditorium in Northwest, Fri., March 19 as part of AT &T€s 28 Days campaign designed to inspire students to stake their claim in the world and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.

"There's only one success in real life. There are lots of myths about success, but it€s obvious we're all here for happiness," Simmons said.

"Being rich is a state of happiness. I found something I loved. It's the focus on the work itself that makes you happy," said Simmons, the author of "Do You - The 12 Laws of Achieving Happiness and Success.€

In a effort to create a forum for influential African Americans to share their success stories; AT&T along with The Great Black Speakers Bureau teamed up to create the 28 Days campaign to celebrate Black History month but also to inspire and encourage African Americans to look toward the future and the endless possibilities that exist within the Black community.

The speaker series has featured boxing champion Laila Ali, political motivator Jeff Johnson and sports branding expert Erin Patton along with others who traveled to Oakland, Atlanta and Chicago before touching down in Washington D.C.

While on stage, Simmons, 53, shared stories with his audience about being involved with drugs and gangs. He also cautioned students to be aware of the company that they keep €" individuals who may try and lead them down the wrong path.

"I was sleeping on the couch in a drug house, but I didn't know," Simmons said.

Fortunately, he was able to find an outlet which was Hip-Hop. The musical genre inspired him to create Rush Communications, a management company, Phat Farm and Run Athletics, a clothing line and a shoe business. He has created TV shows, a comedy series and now an online Hip-Hop community, Global Grind.

None of his ventures he said are motivated by money.

"It's really about empowering people," said Rosa Esquivel, AT&T's west region director of marketing.

"It's not so much about the historical impact, but the forward momentum and creating your own page in history," Esquivel said.

By making living figures visible to the youth, AT&T strived to help the community see that their dreams are in fact attainable.

Singer and songwriter Raheem DeVaughn helped Simmons field questions from the audience who text messaged from their phones to a laptop on stage.

DeVaughn who has mentored children since the start of his career stepped in at the last minute, to contribute to the District campaign.

"It's about creating avenues, people doing their research and being able to assist where you can assist," the singer said.

"I think it will influence lots of people in the area, I'm happy to be a part of it."

To an aspiring filmmaker who sent a text message to Simmons, the hip-hop icon offered this advice, "Make a hit." To independent artists seeking radio play, Simmons responded, "Make a smash." To college students who are about to graduate Simmons said, "Go out and be the most productive person you're capable of being."

And in regards to someone considering giving up on their entrepreneurial dreams, Simmons suggested self-examination.

"Branding is about honesty. A lasting brand has to be filled with integrity and there are always going to be delusions for accomplishments that we have to overcome," Simmons said.