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Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money, + God Paperback – September 24, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (September 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609807153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807156
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Legendary entrepreneur Simmons's career bio reads like a history of the hip-hop movement, from his first stint as a DJ and promoter in the mid-1970s, through his cofounding of Def Jam Records and groundbreaking 1980s work with Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, to his wildly successful cable showcase Def Comedy Jam and his fashion label Phat Farm. But surprisingly, the tone of his memoir, written with accomplished author George (The Death of Rhythm and Blues), is rather flat. Simmons shares tales of his youth in Queens, early New York street-hustling days with DJs like Kurtis Blow, and partying in the Caribbean with Naomi Campbell and Robert De Niro, describing his life as full "of decisions and danger with deep moral and emotional consequences." Long on details and short on self-analysis, the stories blur into one long rise to the top. The book has an "as-told-to" quality, as if George transcribed interviews and added accurate sociological analysis in stilted prose ("It is that contrast between street knowledge and traditional values that frightens mainstream people about hip-hop"). Judging from Simmons's taciturnity about past drug use and sexism, he may have wanted simply to recount his success as a black businessman "all of my business success ties in directly to my internal growth." Still, Simmons's book is required reading for hip-hop fans. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Oct. 9)Forecast: The major media blitz includes tie-in with Phat Farm's 10th anniversary promotions and the $1-million launch of Simmons's new telecommunications company, Rush Communications, as well as promotional support from the BET cable company and Simmons's site.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-With the help of prolific author George, Simmons discusses his experiences as a manager and producer of hip-hop music, comedy, and fashions. His real name is Hollis Crew, the big brother of former old-school rapper Run of Run-D.M.C. Their father wrote rap lyrics for Run-D.M.C. early in their career. Although this memoir is unlikely to hold teens' interest from cover to cover, it can be a useful source for researching the history and influence of hip-hop culture. It provides information about other rap stars as well. Readers can also gain valuable insights into the business aspects of the entertainment industry from Simmons's explanations of how he developed film projects, Def Comedy Jam, Phat Farm fashions, and the Internet company 360 Hip-Hop. The author gives examples of how major record companies such as Sony exploit small independent companies such as Def Jam. He also details how specific individuals-including rap artists-have betrayed him in business deals. At the end of the memoir, Simmons summarizes his formula for success in five succinct lessons. A telling look at the unglamorous side of the industry.
Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting and informative book.
This book is very inspiring and it show that Russell is human and he a force to be reckon with in the business community.
Duane B. Harris
You have to read deeper into the book.
Sabrina Jaurez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Leah Ayanna on August 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I know what you are thinking. If this book is so bad, why did I give it four stars? First of all, the book only deserved 3 ½ stars but unfortunately that is not an option due to technical difficulties (this is my first review!).
Second, this is a very interesting story about a self-made millionaire who pioneered and profited from an industry that didn't exist 30 years ago. However, this book leaves a lot to be desired.
Life & Def sets sail with a strong start. Simmons details his childhood and introduces his creative family. He explains the strong influence of his mother (the free-spirit painter who encouraged her children to seek non-traditional occupations), and his father (the writer who believed in a 9-5, but encouraged artistic expressions and even wrote lyrics for Run DMC!) Despite the strong start, the ship soon goes off course. Simmons bombards you with names, (random) dates, and industry specific terms. He gives brief overviews of important milestones such as his successful HBO show Def Comedy Jam, only to return (briefly again!) later in the book.
My love of hip-hop and desire for entrepreneurial success pushed me through the choppy waters of this book. I especially struggled to stay afloat during the last 30 pages. By this time I was mentally exhausted from wading through oceans of acronyms, abbreviations, and run-on sentences. Simmons offers a plethora of advice. He candidly shares his mistakes and regrets in an attempt to save the reader from the same. However, he gives you a map for success omitting the last leg of the trip! At the end of the book, I was lost at sea searching for answers to the many issues that plagued the author. The best example of this is the recurring theme of drugs.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By beelove on November 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who knows anything about Def Jam or Russell Simmons in general will realize this is an EXTREMELY top-line look at the man who is largely responsible for turning hip hop into its own hybrid of corporate culture. A lot of people who were players in the development of the def jam image or long-time soldiers in his camp are not mentioned, significant events are left out and certain explanations of what went down or his motivations behind important decisions are vague at best. Even seemingly positive, life-altering subjects are left undiscussed. He shows a picture of his "model" wife's pregnant, naked stomach in the photo section and credits her with being the most beautiful, intelligent woman he's ever met but doesn't even tell how he met her or why he (the most notorious "model chaser" around) picked this particular one to marry.
Russ does spin some interesting tales and makes a few insightful comments about certain hip hop artists and how some of his deals were structured, but overall that's not enough. If you're really hoping to take a look into the soul of America's favorite hip hop impressario or hoping to pick up pointers on how to hone your music biz skills, look elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C.F. on May 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
I've read this book once all throughout, and now I'm in my second reading highlighting key points Russell Simmons had made during the course of his writing.

If you are an independent rap or hiphop artist (hell, ANY independent music artist) or got plans for starting your own record label, this book is a perfect start for you.

Not that it'll give you direct information regarding how to start your own label, but it will give you an idea of what it takes to be successful out there. What it gave me, as an independent rapper myself (you can see how I choose to implement some of his points into our hip-hop blueprint by checking out my group's site, [...] are ideas on how to effectively market my music by laying out the Def Jam's blueprint to success.

Several points that Russell Simmons made that I believe is worth mentioning are ::

1.) How you should properly build your audience

2.) What he did to make corporate America and the mainstream to adapt to his standards, not the other way around

3.) What it is about HIS brand of hip-hop that made it so successful

4.) The importance of branding and having your own identity

5.) How he got popular as a show promoter through networking and marketing

6.) How he managed to break one of their first records, "Christmas Rappin" and used it to further their success

7.) The demise of Sugar Hill Records

8.) Why you can't really expect to get rich off selling records (he uses the concept of an album as your calling card to other money generators)

9.) Touches on how him and Rick Rubin ran Def Jam in the earlier days

...and many more valuable industry insights from the words of an established player out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. A Lewis on November 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I first started reading this book there became a point when I wanted to stop because of the writing being so horrible. Russell Simmons uses so much profanity and I know that he believes that he is being real by doing so much cursing. However, at the same time the usage of so much profanity shows a lack of creativity in the usage of the English language.
However, in the middle of book the until the end of it Mr. Simmons gave us some valuable information about how the big parent record companies really don't want to see companies like Def Jam, Uptown, and other companies that specialize in producing hip hop artists to succeed. In the same aspect Russell Simmons sheds some light on Andre Harrell firing Puff Daddy from Uptown records and how the big executives at MCA did not like Puffy or Biggie Smalls levels of success which was too great for the executives over at MCA to handle. The book is a must read for all people aspiring to enter the music game period and how recording artists are really at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to points, royalties (money) and most of all respect.
This book was really good, but Russell kept jumping back and forth in time which confused me a great deal. Nevertheless just because this book was poorly written does not take away that Russell Simmons is a genius and great role model for a lot of us to look up to for guidance. This book has given me a higher level of respect for Mr. Simmons and the hip hop world, which I was already a big fan of many artists like LL Cool J, De la Soul, NAS, Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie, Queen Latifah, Mc Lyte, Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest and I could go on for hours listing artists that just move me whenever I hear them.
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