Russell Simmons has signed a two-year first-look deal with HBO, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The arrangement allows Simmons to create and develop projects for HBO, the network that aired Simmons' Def Comedy Jam from 1992-97 and from 2006-08. Def Comedy Jam was instrumental in helping advance the careers of such comedians as Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker and Joe Torry.
With his new HBO deal, Simmons will submit his projects exclusively to HBO. If the network is not interested in moving forward, Simmons has the opportunity to shop the project elsewhere.
Simmons has been an active television producer throughout the last decade, executive producing Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, on HBO; Run's House, starring his younger brother Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons on MTV; and the Run's House spin-off Daddy's Girls, also on MTV. He also executive produced the film Waist Deep, a 2006 thriller featuring Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good and Game.
The New Yorker built his fame and influence as a producer and manager of rap artists in the 1980s and by co-founding with Rick Rubin in 1984 the Def Jam Recordings company. During Simmons' run at Def Jam, its roster included LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, among others.
Since then, Simmons has expanded his brand by launching the Phat Farm clothing line and authoring a number of books, including 2008's Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success.