Russell Simmons and Steve Rifkind break new ground with All Def Digital

Earlier this year, Def Jam founder and philanthropist Russell Simmons partnered with his longtime friend and music executive Steve Rifkind to form All Def Digital.

ADD is both a record label and digital production house that aims to change the way users consume music and more importantly media.

Partnering with YouTube, ADD has created multiple channels online that are loaded with content that ranges from music interviews with your favorite artist to live streaming comedy shows.

ADD’s most recent venture is an ambitious project titled ADD52, a new project with Samsung.

ADD52 is a hybrid contest and artist development boot camp using an online platform. Every week, ADD52 will introduce a new singer or rapper to channel subscribers, as well as new songs and music videos.

Throughout 52 weeks, the fans vote on who’s the best, giving them complete power.

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Rifkind, founder of Loud Records, said he believes in the financial growth potential of ADD and ADD52 in the digital space. He also said he feels the project provides an outlet for Russell’s passion of mentoring young artists.

“I wouldn’t be doing this without Russell,” Rifkind told’s music editor Kyle Harvey. “To me, he’s built, if not the three top record labels in the world on instinct and heart alone.”

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“And we’re having fun too,” Russell Simmons added. “It’s been a long time that we’ve been this excited. Even during the stint I was out of the record business, I always used artists’ voice for raising social and political issues. I’m always taking meetings with artists to give them some direction. That name ‘Uncle Russ’ didn’t come from nowhere. So helping to  develop their careers is a natural thing for me. [ADD] is a fresh start.”

ADD is emerging in an era where traditional record labels place an emphasis on singles versus artist development. Universal Music Group, the record label that sells 40 percent of the world’s music, dissolved into three separate groups.

Russell Simmons wants whoever’s managing the new wave of upcoming artists to be genuine and to have a vested interest in what their overall message is.

“Who’s going to save black culture?” Simmons asks. “Who’s going to speak to these kids when all they want to sing  about is shooting and murder?  You can say things in a certain way that reflects your time in the street, but to also show that you’re crying out for help. The kids that make the most violent music, I want them to come see me,  so I can speak to them, so we can figure out how to save their lives and how we can be a part of saving other people’s lives.”

You can check out Kyle’s musical coverage on theGrio music page and follow Kyle on Twitter @HarveyWins.