A CHAT WITH RUSSELL SIMMONS: Mogul breaks down UniRush Financial Services and Rush Visa Card, status with Def Jam, NAACP presidency.

     There are so many Americans who don’t have access to a bank account,” begins Russell Simmons, whose desire to help folks claw their way out of debt and despair has led the Def Jam co-founder to launch UniRush Financial Services – a company that offers a world of banking opportunities, only without the bank.
UniRush Financial Services’ offers a prepaid Rush Visa Card, which acts a lot like a checking account debit card, but it doesn’t draw on a bank account.
     “It’ll serve exactly like a bank account,” Simmons explains to EUR’s Lee Bailey. “There are several different ways to load it – via direct deposit, you can send in a check or money order, or you can even go to any moneygram location and load it there. We don’t charge anything.”
     Simmons says his primary reason for staring the company was not only to help Americans manage their bank account, but to assist “those 70 million Americans who don’t have one at all. A great percentage of other Americans do not claim their taxes. Two-and-a-half or three billion dollars are held every year and not collected. People who don’t collect it are generally the people who need it the most. This service obviously makes it easy for those people who haven’t collected it in the past to start collecting.”
     An alliance between UniRush and Intuit, the makers of TurboTax products, are giving young tax filers a faster, easier alternative to get their tax refund. Filers can deposit their refund to a Rush Card at the Web site, www.TTRefund.com, which allows customers to prepare and electronically file their taxes with TurboTax through the Web service and receive their refund in as little as 10 days.
     “Ten days after they spent 10 minutes [signing up for the service], they’d have their money directly deposited on their new card, which helps them have access to the rest of the things they need, helps them build their credit score, helps them buy their first house even,” enthuses Simmons. “There are so many things that UniRush Financial Services Company wants to do for people. We wanna help them get health coverage, not health insurance, but health coverage and develop tons of ways for them to start to build a better relationship and access the American dream.”
     Simmons went to work on his American dream in the early 80s with the founding of Def Jam Records with Rick Rubin in 1984. After selling the remainder of his 40 percent share of Def Jam to Universal Music Group for a reported $100 million in 1999, the business tycoon began focusing on his gazillion other ventures, including the Phat Farm clothing line in 1992, Rush Communications – a music and film company, and most recently, the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.
     Proclaiming hip hop his first love, Simmons is about to drop four projects from artists signed to his Russell Simmons Music Group label – as soon as it finds a distributor.
     “There are still other people bidding, but it feels very strong that I’ll be back working at Def Jam,” says Simmons. “I wanna work for [President/CEO] Jay-Z. I love L.L. Cool J. I love the whole family. I have Def Jam electronics, I have Def Jam video games, I have Def Jam mobile, which we’re acquiring tons of talent, we have Def Jam clothing. So even though other labels have good offers and they’re very excited, some of the stuff that we’re doing is locked in Def Jam.”
Simmons says that he’d have to kill us if he revealed the four artists dropping albums on his label.
      “But they’re some good sh**,” he says. “Three out of the four are rap acts. I got one act doing his own TV show. Some are well known already, others are highly sought-after in the industry. We’re gonna announce it when we get everything right.”
Pretty much everything is going right for Russell Simmons these days, so much so that his strong connection with America’s urban youth were rumored to have intrigued even the NAACP, who had reportedly tossed his name into the ring as a possible candidate for presidency.
     “No one’s called me about it. It’s a very flattering idea, but I haven’t discussed it with anybody,” he says. “I can’t imagine [NAACP Chairman] Julian Bond sitting around thinking about me taking over what Kweisi Mfume left. “

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