A BBC series is asking influential figures around the world about the defining moments in their life.
Simmons is one of the most influential men in music
Russell Simmons is the founder and head of Def Jam records, the label that helped bring rap and hip-hop music into the mainstream. His investment established the release of the first albums by the likes of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Warren G.
I think I was very much affected by the speech for the Million Family March by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
I think that was a very defining speech about rising above symbols and being greater than what we say we are, not accepting the labels that people give us - I'm a millionaire, I'm black, I'm this and that.
He talked about: "Yo, we're all humanity, we're all one," and that speech I thought was beautiful.
It wasn't such a big march, they say, but if you stood on the stage and looked out there were 10 baseball stadiums - 500,000 people.
More than a million people came to the Million Man March, but half a million people at the Million Family March was a pretty phenomenal statement, because I was on stage and again, I saw it - it was like the most amazing thing the number of people.
But just hearing that speech about rising above symbols and a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven and all that - it was a defining speech for me with regard to my view of humanity.
Defining Moments will run until 23 July on BBC World Service's World Today programme. You can also read people's recollections on BBC News Online.