NEW YORK — He didn’t have the paunch, the snow-white beard or the hefty red suit, but Russell Simmons was spreading Christmas cheer on Monday to about 250 kids. Simmons threw his fourth annual youth holiday party, given for economically disadvantaged children who participate in various city arts programs.
In addition to being treated to food, gifts and goodie bags at the party, held at Club NV, kids had a chance to meet some of their favorite rap stars. MTV News’ own Sway co-hosted the evening and got to introduce both P. Diddy and Jay-Z, who walked in together about halfway through the party. By that time, the kids had already enjoyed DJ sets from Kay Slay and an impromptu performance by Kanye West, decked out in a very fatherly, cozy-looking red sweater and tan wool suit ensemble.
The kids were greeted at the beginning of the evening by Santa Claus, who looked suspiciously muscular and familiar with the spotlight of celebrity (wearing sunglasses indoors was a giveaway). Indeed, it was none other than LL Cool J, who said he was happy to dress up as St. Nick for the occasion. “I’ll do anything for the kids,” LL said. “If you give your time and energy when someone needs it, when you need it, someone will give their time and energy to you. It’s that simple.”
At one moment in the evening, “Santa Cool J” broke out a fistful of $100 bills and peeled them off into the crowd. The rush to grab the money caused throngs of kids to crush up against the club’s stage railing, providing the only awkward moment in an otherwise festive night.
Other celebrities the kids got to meet included Bad Boy’s Da Band, Doug E. Fresh and R&B singer Amerie. The different youth groups each performed for each other, turning out vivid spoken-word poems (Urban Word), crunk raps (Art Start) and dance routines (Groove With Me). The Jackie Robinson Steppers, a Brooklyn, New York, teen marching band, wowed the crowd with renditions of hip-hop hits, at one point serenading Jay-Z with their take on “What More Can I Say” and Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.”
Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation is based in New York and supports various youth arts groups around New York as well as burgeoning artists of color.