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Russell Simmons, hip-hop pioneer and creator of the Tony Award-winning "Def Poetry Jam," will receive a lifetime achievement award from Old Dominion University's NAACP chapter during its 2004 Image Awards April 29.

A series of awards also will be presented to outstanding ODU student groups, advisers and faculty, as well as members of the community, who have contributed to the cause of civil rights. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the multipurpose room at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center. The awards ceremony is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and reservations are required. Call 683-5361 for reservations.

Simmons also will introduce a "Def Poetry Jam" performance, sponsored by the ODU NAACP, at the Constant Center arena at 7:30 p.m. that night. The ODU performance is one of only four campus performances of "Def Poetry Jam" this year. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at the Constant Center box office, all TicketMaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or charged by phone at (757) 671-8100.

The Image Awards ceremony is sponsored by MBNA and the Old Dominion University Alumni Association. Both events are presented by local radio stations Z-104 and 95.7 R&B.

Simmons has been hailed as a master visionary who has long shaped the cutting edge of hip-hop, a cultural phenomenon of the latter 20th century. His vision stems from his early realization of hip-hop's appeal - cutting across geographic, race and class boundaries - and its evolution from a musical form into a lifestyle expression.

In the last 25 years, Simmons, 45, has brought hip-hop to every facet of media and pop culture: in music with the immensely successful Def Jam Recordings; in television with HBO's "The Def Comedy Jam" and "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry"; on Broadway with the critically-acclaimed stage production "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway"; in the fashion industry with the Phat Farm and Baby Phat clothing lines; in magazine publishing with One World magazine; and in the community with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

While still a college student, Simmons saw his first rap show in 1977 and soon began promoting his own shows managing artists and producing records. By the early 1980s, the roster of his Rush Artist Management included such rap artists as Whodini, Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC. Over the years Rush would help mold the careers of chart-topping artists Will Smith, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys.

In 1984, Simmons co-founded Def Jam Recordings, which quickly developed into rap's premier label. Today, the label continues to hold the leading spot in the market with 2002 revenues of $780 million. Simmons's approach to the marketing of the label reflects his background in artist management: "We don't make records, we build artists." Def Jam's current roster includes artists such as Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man and Montell Jordan.

Def Jam went into business with Columbia Records/Sony Music in 1985. In 1995 Polygram Music bought out Sony's half-interest in Def Jam. Island/Def Jam is now owned by Polygram's successor, The Universal Music Group, although Simmons retains the title of chairman of Def Jam Records and maintains an active interest in and commitment to the company.

Simmons has also been involved in a series of films, including "Krush Groove" (1985), "Tougher Than Leather" (1988), "Gridlock" (1997), "How to Be a Player" (1997) and "The Nutty Professor" (1996).

Following the historic Hip-Hop Summit, Simmons organized in June 2001 the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HHSAN) was founded to harness the cultural relevance of hip-hop music as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the well-being of at-risk youth throughout the United States.

This article was posted on: April 19, 2004

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