EXCLUSIVE: Fox has set Life And Def: Sex Drugs Money + God, a feature biopic that chronicles the rise of Russell Simmons from the inner city streets of Queens to one of the most influential music/fashion culture impresarios of his era. The studio has set to write it Kenya Barris, the creator of ABC’s hit series Black-ish and co-writer of films that include Barbershop: The Next Cut and the upcoming comedy Girls Trip (written with Tracy Oliver). Pic is a co-production between Simmons’ Def Pictures and Misher Films, with Simmons and Kevin Misher producing. Jake Stein, Bobby Shriver, Josh Bratman and Andy Berman are the exec producers.

Russell Simmons Mike D Def Jam
Associated Press

Fox last year signed a deal with Barris and his production company, Khalabo Ink Society, to hatch films aimed at telling compelling stories that pull back the curtain on the parts of our society that typically go unnoticed. Life And Def will capture the rebellious rise of rap and hip hop in America, through the prism of the disruptive Simmons and the formation of Def Jam Records. That label started with rap icons like L.L. Cool J, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys and grew to include Kanye West, Jay-Z and DMX.

It’s a different view of a zeitgeist movement than L.A-set films like Straight Outta Compton or All Eyez On Me. The backdrop here is New York City in the early ’80s, when crime and crack were spreading like wildfire, Gotham City teetered on bankruptcy and MTV was blowing up as disco was dying. Into that vacuum walked Simmons, a young party and record promoter who emerged from hustling on the streets of Hollis, Queens to managing young musical artists who were rapping words to a beat instead of singing a melody, with furious passionate lyrics that burned across ethnic, class and geographic lines and spoke to an emerging youth culture.

Barris is represented by CAA, Principato Young, and Morris Yorn.