Russel Simmons, the co-founder of hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings, has become one of the first major black music figures to join the fight for full marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

Simmons, who also founded the Phat Farm fashion line, has shown his support for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign, lead by the Human Rights Campaign, in a YouTube video that will also be played in taxis throughout New York City.

Def Jam Recordings’ current president is Jay-Z. The company launched the careers of Ne-Yo, Rihanna, and Kanye West, who is trying to stop the association of homophobia with hip-hop. Their position is in marked contrast to other rappers such as Buju Banton whose notorious 1990s hit Boom Bye Bye appears to incite the burning, shooting in the head and pouring acid over the faces of gay people.

A homophobic rapper who died in 2007, Pimp C, called Simmons, who is not gay, “ol’ dick-in-the-booty” and R&B star Ne-Yo an “old gay ass” in Ozone magazine, but later rescinded his comments.

Gay marriage is not legal in the state of New York, although the state recognises marriages performed in states where it is legal. A poll taken as far back as 2009 indicated that the majority of New Yorkers support the introduction of gay marriage.

Mr Simmons is also set to receive the GLAAD Excellence in Media Award, which he will accept at the 22nd annual GLAAD media awards in New York on the 19th March. Ricky Martin will receive the Vito Russo award for making a “significant difference” to equal rights.

“Whether speaking out against the unfair nature of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 or advocating for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, Russell Simmons has become a critical ally who inspires diverse communities across the country to support equality,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios on Wednesday.

Simmons joins a growing list of prominent New Yorkers declaring their support for gay marriage, which includes Barbara Bush, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mayor Bloomberg, Mark and Sunrise Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Joan Rivers, John Slattery, Fran Drescher, Moby, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Julianne Moore, designer Kenneth Cole and Broadway star Daphne Rubin-Vega.