Def Jam legend Russell Simmons has confirmed his endorsement for US presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Hugely influential in the black community, Simmons' backing will provide a boost to the Illinois senator's campaign ahead of crucial primary elections in Texas and Ohio.

Having founded the Def Jam Records in 1984, Simmons has amassed a huge fortune through his clothing range Phat Farm as well as serving as the chair of the non-partisan, non-profit Foundation for Ethnic Understanding charity.

And the 50-year-old Queens native has now confirmed that despite his New York upbringing, he is backing Mr Obama in The Race for the White House rather than New York senator Hillary Clinton.

Simmons explained in a press release that he had been "been particularly inspired by the fact that Senator Obama has built an unprecedented, national movement comprised of people from all ethnic, racial, political, social and economic backgrounds".

He added: "[Mr] Obama's leadership, passion and demand for a change resonates effectively with the aspirations of millions of people who want a better quality of life.

"I am now compelled by my own personal conscience to publicly state, 'I support and endorse Barack Obama for president.'"

Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, had said in January 2007, that he was unsure which prospective Democratic candidate he favoured, saying: "If you could take Barack Obama's image, add Hillary Rodham Clinton's money and John Edwards' voice, that would be my candidate."

04/03/2008 10:23:50