No. 9: Russell Simmons, The Man Who Took Hip-Hop Mainstream

Russell Simmons didn’t just open a business when he created Rush Communications, he gave birth to the multibillion-dollar hip-hop economy. Through his Def Jam unit, he produced music, comedy shows, and motion pictures while Phat Fashions L.L.C. ignited the billion-dollar urban attire industry. He served as mentor to a generation of entrepreneurs in the entertainment and fashion industries.

VIDEO: Watch Russell Simmons’ Headliner profile on Our World with Black Enterprise

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, Black Enterprise is taking a look both forward and backward at the world of black business. Our list of 40 “Titans: The Most Powerful African Americans in Business–and How They Shaped Our World” recognizes and pays homage to the entrepreneurs and business men and women who paved the way for all of us. Follow our countdown of the most important black business leaders of the four decades since Black Enterprise Magazine was founded in August 1970.

These are the men and women who fought the odds, suffered setbacks, regrouped, and eventually emerged victorious. Whether they conducted business from their own offices or the executive suite, their professional excellence, deal-making prowess, and unwavering advocacy converted promise into channels of prosperity and levers of power. These are the pioneers who withstood the elements–institutional racism, resistance from the business establishment, and lack of resources–to plant a flag on their own patch of territory.

These are the Titans: bold leaders who shattered conventional modes of commerce. Because of their contributions over the past 40 years, the world of business has been transformed forever.

Be sure to pick up the commemorative 40th anniversary August 2010 issue of Black Enterprise, which contains the entire Titans list.