An acclaimed painter and writer, Danny Simmons came to prominence in the 1990s with his abstract expressionist oil works. Drawing upon his love of African-American culture, avant-garde art, and his interest in political activism, Simmons also gained attention for his writing, including several poetry books and the 2004 novel Three Days as the Crow Flies. The older sibling of hip-hop executive Russell Simmons, he and his brother co-produced the HBO series Def Poetry Jam. Along with his own creative art, Simmons is the founder of Brooklyn's Corridor Gallery and Chelsea's Rush Gallery as well as the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, where he works to champion nonconventional and under-represented artists.
Born in 1953 in New York City, Simmons grew up in an intellectually minded family the son of Daniel Simmons Sr., a school-attendance superintendent and black history professor, and Evelyn Simmons, a teacher and painter. Raised in Hollis, Queens, alongside his younger brothers — future hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons (aka Run of Run-D.M.C.) — Danny became interested in writing, painting, and activism at a young age. After high school, he earned a degree in social work from New York University, as well as a master's in public finance from Long Island University Brooklyn. It was while working a day job at the Bureau of Child Support that he began painting. By the '90s, had earned acclaim for his work, which he dubbed Neo-African Abstract Expressionism.
Over the years, Danny Simmons expanded into writing and has published several books of poetry. In 1995, he co-founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and Rush Arts Gallery. He also converted part of his Brooklyn loft into the Corridor Gallery, focusing on rising artists. Along with his brother Russell, he launched the Def Poetry Jam, which led to a series of shows on HBO from 2002 to 2007. In 2004, he published the novel Three Days as the Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980s art scene in New York City. Two volumes of poems followed with 2014's Brown Beatnik Tomes and 2015's Deep in Your Best Reflection. He also moved to Philadelphia in 2015 and opened Rush Arts Philadelphia gallery.