Music industry pioneer pacts with Island

Russell Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records 21 years ago with Rick Rubin and brought the world Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, has formed a 50/50 joint label with Island Def Jam Music Group.

He will head up the Russell Simmons Music Group with Tony Austin installed as president. Label will debut later this year with new albums by Simmons’ brother Reverend Run (Joseph Simmons) and Buddafly, an R&B group comprised of three sisters.

“The reason I’m back in the music business is because I’m inspired by the wonderful opportunity to work again directly with L.A. Reid, Jay-Z and Reverend Run,” Russell Simmons said. “Reverend Run’s and Buddafly’s presence on RSMG demonstrates our commitment to cultural diversity and integrity.”

Simmons has long been out of the music business, concentrating on hip-hop lifestyle products and ideas. He created HBO’s “The Def Comedy Jam” and “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” which he brought to Broadway.

He created the fashion lines Phat Farm (which he sold a year ago for $140 million), Baby Phat, Run Athletics and Def Jam University, as well as food and beverage businesses.

In 1995, Russell, Danny and Joseph Simmons founded Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, and in June 2001, Russell Simmons and Benjamin Muhammad founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. Russell Simmons is also chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding with Rabbi Marc Schneier.

“He is a forward-thinking innovator with a profound awareness of every nuance that the movement is going through,” said Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman of UMG’s Island Def Jam Music Group. Austin founded King Shah Prods. in January 1994. The company produced comedy tours with Steve Harvey, Chris Tucker and John Witherspoon, as well as an R. Kelly and LL Cool J tour. In 2002 Austin founded production company Chocolate City Music, where he first came across Buddafly. Austin has also been an A&R exec for Def Jam since 2003.

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