Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons wasn’t just blunt about his frustration at Hollywood during a Produced By Conference panel on his popular urban and millennial-centric multi-platform company All Def Digital, he was direct.
“Not one agent helped us” with the All Def Movie Awards, he claimed, referring to the inaugural awards show produced by All Def Digital that aired on Fusion this past February as a diversity-promoting alternative to the Oscars.
“I didn’t get much help. I just want to abandon Hollywood and do my own shit,” Simmons added, to loud applause from the audience.
When earlier asked by moderator Tracey Edmonds how important it would be to the presidential election to reach an urban demographic, Simmons implied – without naming names – that he had recently discussed the subject with Hillary Clinton, who he’s endorsed.
“We need to get them motivated. I had a conversation for two hours probably about three days ago about this, actually, with our nominee,” he said. “We have to be creative. This group of people is going to be critical, and will pick the president, as they did President Obama.”
With 300 million monthly views of its digital video content across platforms including YouTube and Facebook, All Def Digital – just a year and a half old – has positioned itself as a go-to outlet for younger hip-hop identified audiences.
That audience is “multiracial and singularly cultural,” similar to the All Def Digital staff, Simmons said. There are also multiple films in development, from comedies to a hip-hop opera to action thrillers.
All Def “is kind of like an urban VICE,” said Simmons. “Hip-hop is a broad pop phenomenon … All the movies we have in development have strong international appeal, and TV shows too.”
Simmons became philosophical when asked about how to best deal with rejection.
The longtime hip-hop pioneer, who produced his first film in 1985 and executive produced Def Comedy Jam from 1992 to 2008, spoke passionately about authenticity and perseverance.
“If you have faith and an idea, it can never go away,” he said. “You have to stay on your hustle. It may evolve. It may not be what you first envisioned.”
When one audience member announced to Simmons that he was a gangster rapper turned film producer, had just moved to Los Angeles from Mississippi 15 days ago and wanted to know if there was room for him at All Def Digital, Simmons smiled.
“Stars come through, and they’re more famous from being at All Def Digital than they are from being leads on TV shows. They live in our office,” Simmons said. “If you can fit the team over there, then that’s what we’re looking for, people like you.”