Music Industry Moguls: Power Players

 Many of the greatest minds to inhabit and shape our world admit to possessing an inherent belief from an early age that greatness lie ahead, despite the dismal circumstances of their youth.

The Graduate
Swizz Beatz

Not familiar with the beats of this DJ and record producer? Well then let’s first brush up on some hip-hop music history. His uncles founded the Ruff Ryders music label back in 1988; years later, when the young MC was a mere 16 years old, they asked him to lend his talents to help produce rap star DMX’s single “Stop, Drop,” a track that went on to become the first hit for the label. Still mean nothing to you? Then let’s move on to the next one. In 2001, at 23 years old, he got a full taste of executive life when he became the president and CEO of Full Service Records, a project that had the backing of Clive Davis. He spent the ensuing years working and hanging out with some of music’s greatest legends, including Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani, Beyoncé, Bono, and Alicia Keys. In 2009, he teamed up with Sean “Jay-Z” Carter for the smash hit “On to the Next One,” a pop culture favorite that some here at Haute Living have dubbed our 2010 battle cry for expansion. If tunes are not your forte, perhaps it would interest you to know that he is also a force in the fashion world and counts Christian Louboutin as a close personal friend. Some of our favorite stylistas can’t even make that claim. You can read more about this creative genius in Meredith Mulligan’s One-on-One interview in this issue on page 42. It’s one to pay attention to, considering that the artist has vowed to step out of the shadows, build a brand based on his given name of Kasseem Dean, and declare 2010 his year. Keep an eye, and an ear, out for this one.

The Founder
Russell Simmons

It’s hard to keep up with all that goes on in the world of Russell Simmons. In fact, there is little doubt that from the time that this article was written until it goes to print and is in your hands, Simmons will have launched any number of new initiatives, philanthropic foundations, or made headlines once again for making a difference.

Who could have guessed that founding an avant-garde, left-of-center record company back in the early 80s would lead Simmons down the path to becoming one of the founding fathers of modern-day America. Even if Simmons had an inkling of the positive impact that he would have on our zeitgeist, could he have foreseen such national recognition as being named as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years” by USA Today?

When he first took on the managing of hip-hop artists like Run DMC (of which his brother was a member) and the Beastie Boys, he became known in underground urban circles as an epic force. However, when he went on to sign the likes of Jay-Z, Foxy Brown, and Ludacris, in addition to founding Def Jam Recordings with partner Rick Rubin back in 1984, ready or not, he exploded onto the mainstream American scene. But even as a household name throughout the 80s, there was still only a small indication of all that was to come from Simmons. Not only did he go on to define himself as one of the most brilliant businessmen and brand builders of the 90s and 2000s, but he made no apologies for demanding excellence from every American, whether a member of the hip-hop youth culture or a top political world leader. His call to a higher consciousness has since continued full steam ahead, and if anything, this 52-year-old mogul has become more energized with the wisdom of age.

Not impressed with his calls to action or his Hallmark-y vision for a better world? For you entrepreneurs out there, consider this: Simmons’ reach has extended into the industries of music, fashion, finance, television, film, arts, and philanthropy. Just a few of the empires that have benefitted from the golden touch of the master include Phat Farm, Baby Phat, Run Athletics, Argyle Culture, American Classics, Simmons Jewelry Co., Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Rush Communications, Def Jam Enterprises, Simmons Lathan Media Group, and the personalized Internet portal for the hip-hop community, Oh yeah, and he’s a New York Times best-selling author, penning Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, as well as a former Haute Living cover subject. Visit /archives to read our full profile of the inspiring entrepreneur.