Leaders In The Hip-Hop Community Who Have Used Their Platform To Affect Positive Change
RAPPERS, MOGULS TURNED Community Organizer, SOCIAL ACTIVISTS
Having achieved success in the music industry, these hip-hop leaders use their notoriety for social activism. Hip hop artists, producers, actors, and entrepreneurs, these men are well known in the entertainment world. They understand that their voices are heard and use this to promote social change.
Materialism and humanitarianism are often at odds in hip hop. Activist and activism do not always go hand-in-hand. But hip hop is a world unto itself, and countless rappers have used their platform to fight for the underprivileged.
This article interprets "social activism" broadly -- it includes artists who have uplifted marginalized groups, generally affect positive change in the world, and attack social injustice. Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to attack social injustice at its root. But we salute these 13 hp-hop leaders who have served their community and inspired a new generation of do-gooders.
Chance The Rapper
He created an awards show for teachers, parents, principals, and students that convey leadership Chance announced recently that Chicago will host the first ever Twilight Awards in 2018. The awards will be for "teachers, parents, principals, and students that convey leadership." According to Chance, the show will be hosted by James Corden of the Late Late Show, and special guests will perform. Chance deeply values education and consistently emphasizes the importance of educating the youth, "Funding education is the most important investment a community can make," he said.
He's donated and fundraised racks on racks on racks for Chicago Public Schools Chance has been giving back to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) consistently for many years now. In January of 2015 Chance, his brother and Sway helped to raise $100,000 for Chicago schools through the Get Schooled Program. The $100,000 went towards new technology equipment to help six local elementary schools. Now, Chance has his own charity called SocialWorks, a youth empowerment charity that has resulted in millions of dollars towards CPS. As many remember, last summer he wrote a $1 million check to the Chicago Public School Foundation to help support the arts in the school system. SocialWorks have done countless charity events to raise money for CPS and Chance is always at the forefront of the events. For example, he manned the grill and cash registers at a local Chicago restaurant to raise money for CPS and Chicago's youth.
He gave the 2018 Commencement speech at Dillard University
He told the 2018 graduates of Dillard University to "Surpass your heroes and achieve greatness, just like Beyoncé did at Coachella"….epic. He was also awarded an honorary degree for his philanthropy and continued service to Chicago youth.
Jay-Z & Beyoncé
Hip Hop Mogul JAY-Z has always been outspoken. Over the years he’s rightfully condemned everything from the US prison system (referred to often by activists as ‘legalized slavery’) and police brutality to institutional racism and anti-immigration rhetoric.
Jay-Z and Roc Nation are continuing their quest to combat social injustice with the assistance of its Team Roc division. A branch dedicated to philanthrophic efforts, Team Roc recently helped an 11-year-old boy get criminal charges stemming from a Pledge of Allegiance protest dismissed. but the last few months in particular have seen him become one of few voices of reason in an increasingly turbulent world.
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter dished out over $ 1 million in scholarship funds for select students around the country throughout the remainder of their worldwide On The Run II (OTRII) tour. The power couple announced scholarship program awarded one exceptional high school senior with $100,000 during each of the tour’s stops in the U.S. The 11 cities include New Orleans, Orlando, Miami, Houston, and Atlanta where the entertainers.
In case you missed it, Jabari Talbot, a sixth-grade student at Lakeland, Florida's Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence after he refused to stand for the pledge on February 04.
According to Bay News 9, the 11-year-old reportedly told his substitute teacher that he refused to stand because "the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to Black people." After an exchange with his teacher, he was reportedly sent to the office because the teacher did "not want to continue dealing with him," reports the news site added.
A school resource officer arrested the student, accusing him of being disruptive and refusing to obey commands. Jabari Talbot was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center. He also faced a three-day school suspension.
Team Roc recruited attorney Alex Spiro to oversee Jabari's case and the charges against the 11-year-old were dropped earlier this month. Spiro said, "Jabari is a courageous and intelligent young man who deserves all the credit for standing up for his beliefs. He should've never been arrested or entangled in this situation—his freedom of speech rights were clearly protected under the 1st Amendment," in a statement
Once news of the acquittal hit social media, commenters couldn't help but celebrate the efforts made by Jay-Z and his Roc Nation team.
Check out what Twitter had to say below:
Arguably the best-known example of his recent activism came when rapper 21 Savage was arrested in Atlanta earlier this year by ICE, the US immigration and customs enforcement agency described by Cynthia Nixon as a “terrorist organization.” Reports revealed that Savage is a UK national whose US visa had lapsed in 2015, but as the story developed it transpired that his applications to stay had been delayed, and that the lapse was – in his own words – “through no fault of [his] own.” Perhaps coincidentally, he had criticized ICE’s cruel treatment of immigrants on new track “a lot” just days earlier; the video dropped two days before his arrest.
Activists reacted immediately with fury and dismay, sparking the hashtag #free21savage to call for his release on bond. That’s when Jay stepped in. Not only did he describe the incident as “an absolute travesty,” he hooked up Savage with world-class lawyer Alex Shapiro and released an official statement through record label Roc Nation, in which he echoed the demands of campaigners. “Person only charged as ‘visa overstay’ is bond eligible,’” it read. “21 Savage should be released immediately.” The demand was soon met, with Savage being granted a release from detention upon payment of an alleged $100,000 bond.
It’s not uncommon for musicians to be written off as activists – sometimes for good reason, sometimes not – but Jay has consistently stepped up and spoken out for what he believes in. One thing he definitely doesn’t believe in is the US criminal justice system, which often turns a blind eye to police brutality and disproportionately criminalizes black youth. It also tends to punish prisoners after their release by imposing harsh restrictions on them.
Beyoncé isn’t too fond of sharing intimate details of her life. September 11th, 2017 Houston native and global Icon superstar Beyoncé returned to the Bayou City to make a donation to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and offer support to those in need.
Beyonce paid tribute to historically black colleges during her groundbreaking Coachella performance, donated $100,000 to four black universities. -- but when it comes to advocating for social justice and tackling politics, she employs the grandest of stages to let her voice ring.
Beyoncé’s “political” video, Formation, and her provocative performance at the Super Bowl 50, have fired black rights activists with enthusiasm but also fuelled right-wingers’ arguments.
Beyoncé sang Formation in front of 70,000 spectators. She performed with dancers in an X formation (an apparent tribute to Malcom X) who evoked the Black Panthers, a political (occasionally armed) movement of black people who fought against the government for self-defense in the ‘60s.
One man that knows this well is Jay’s friend Meek Mill, who has been imprisoned on numerous occasions over the last decade for relatively minor offences. Jay spearheaded the successful #FreeMeekMill campaign and, once Mill had been released, teamed up with the fellow rapper to launch the REFORM alliance, which “aims to [advance] criminal justice reform and [eliminate] outdated laws that perpetuate injustice, starting with probation and parole.” The group pledged an enormous $50 million earmarked for prisoners caught up in what has long been described as an institutionally racist system. (Ava DuVernay outlined this history excellently in her Netflix documentary, 13th.)
Of course, Jay can afford to help others – he’s literally the richest musician in America, and when his net worth is combined with Beyoncé’s they are easily an actual $1 billion couple. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously claimed that “every billionaire is a policy failure,” and she’s not wrong – worldwide income inequality creates a crippling divide which favors some and murders others. But Bey and Jay work to close this gap; his Shaun Carter Foundation has given millions of dollars worth of scholarships to underprivileged students, and Beyoncé’s humanitarian relief has been well-documented.
These efforts aren’t unique to Jay, but his willingness to clearly outline his beliefs and defend them makes him an anomaly in today’s music industry. The last few years have seen a rise in ‘woke-washing,’ a term used to describe celebrities co-opting social justice movements for reputational and financial gain.
T.I. aka TIP
Atlanta rapper "T.I." had a long rap sheet before becoming one of Atlanta's most visible cultural ambassadors (March 22nd, 2019). T.I. was Honored By Georgia State Senate For His Positive Impact On The Community
Atlanta-bred hip-hop artist T.I. has been a fierce advocate for the underserved and his philanthropic efforts have been recognized by politicians in the state of Georgia. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the rapper—whose real name is Clifford Harris—was honored by the Georgia Senate for his dedication to bettering the Atlanta community.
Harris has continually used his platform to spread awareness about social issues and give back to those in need. Through his nonprofit organizations For the Love of Our Fathers and Harris Community Works he’s been able to provide resources and support for individuals from all walks of life. Harris Community Works is centered on helping underprivileged individuals and For the Love of Our Fathers is an initiative designed to assist those battling with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Harris has also lended his voice to issues surrounding racism and injustice. He has been very outspoken about boycotting Gucci following the luxury fashion brand’s blackface controversy and has joined the fight against police brutality. Harris has also hosted several food drives for families in need and has made generous donations to community-based organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.
Although he’s worked on several larger scale philanthropic projects, he’s also found ways to help individuals overcome personal obstacles. Last year, he donated a year’s worth of lunch money to a high school student who was reportedly denied food at school because she was 15 cents short one week. The effort to honor Harris was led by State Sen. Donzella James.
In an interview with NPR, he expressed his dedication to giving back to the city that has shaped him into the man that he is today. He said he wants to focus on improving education, creating more employment opportunities, and housing equity. “As long as I’m investing my time, effort, energy and attention to these things, I think there’s no question that I can make them better,” said Harris.
Here are some facts people did not know about Rapper Ermias Asghedom, known as Nipsey Hussle, before he was shot and killed outside his clothing store in Los Angeles on Sunday. He was also an entrepreneur and a community philanthropist.
Hussle preached ownership and advocated strengthening the financial base in forgotten black communities. He wanted to create avenues for young black people to better their lives and reshape their world.
But Hussle wasn’t killed because he was a symbol of black liberation. He was killed because, as the old adage goes, not everyone in your circle is necessarily in your corner.
Hundreds were seen peacefully marching in honor of the late rapper.
The death of Nipsey Hussle has caused gangs in Los Angeles to come together to honor his legacy. Members from the Bloods, Crips and more gangs around the L.A. area, put their differences aside to participate in a “Unity Walk” Friday (April 5).
Footage of the peaceful march, which took place at the intersection of Crenshaw Blvd. and Slauson Ave. spread across social media showing hundreds of people marching towards the memorial site where the 33-year-old beloved rapper and community activist was brutally murdered last Sunday (March 31).
According to his brother, Hussle owned many businesses in his neighborhood, including Marathon Clothing, the co-working space Vector 90, Steve’s Barbershop, Elite Human Hair, a cell phone shop called Wireless Connection, restaurants Baba Leos and Fish Shack, he had a partnership with Fatburger in Crenshaw, Marathon Studios and his own record label, "All Money In Records."
Trae Tha Truth
Houston-based Rapper, Activist, Philanthropist, and Entrepreneur Trae the Truth Launches “We Are One! Hurricane Harvey Relief” Fundraiser
"Houston hip-hop veteran Trae Tha Truth may not be anything to you but down in the city of Screw Juice, the Asshole By Nature is the man in the streets"
Houston-based rapper, activist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Trae Tha Truth, has joined rescue missions for Hurricane Harvey and has launched a Go Fund Me titled “We Are One! Hurricane Harvey Relief” to raise money through his 501 (C)3 foundation Angel By Nature. His mission is to raise $250,000 buy supplies needed to aid underserved families and senior citizens.
Recognized for his outstanding philanthropic endeavors throughout the years, Trae the Truth was honored by being given his own day by the mayor of Houston in 2008, entitled, Trae Day. For over 10 years, Trae has produced numerous food drives, back-to-school drives, and his annual free block party called Trae Day, has been widely praised for being a great source of badly needed resources, useful information, and family-friendly fun for the community. Since Hurricane Harvey touched down in Houston, Trae has been in the field, joining and organizing rescue missions, delivering supplies, and providing a sense of comfort. His efforts, including going out in boats to retrieve residents who were stranded in their homes, including Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Simmons, have landed him on the nationally syndicated CNN and Good Morning America’s Hometown Heroes segment.
Over the course of his career, Drake has broken multiple records, earned a string of awards and has built a massive following thanks to his musical versatility. But one thing that has received almost as much attention and praise as his music is his philanthropic efforts.
April 2010: Drake Donates $30,000 to Jamaican Learning Center
By the time 2010 rolled around, Drake had dished out a slew of mixtapes and had begun to make a name for himself in hip-hop as Lil Wayne’s then-protege. After visiting Cassava Piece, a community located in Kingston, Jamaica, to film the visual for his Thank Me Later cut “Find Your Love” and witnessing the poor conditions the residents had to live in, Drake told Samaritan Mag that he was “inspired” to donate money to the community.
“I went there and they had ‘Drake’ all over the walls, spraypainted, and all the kids were running after us. So I donated $30,000 to build computer schools for the kids,” he told the publication. “I’m very passionate about Jamaica as a place. I love Jamaica so I just want to try and better the community.”
December 2013: Drake Donates Money to Union Gospel Mission of Portland
While in Portland, Oregon, for his Would You Like a Tour run, Drake reportedly paid a visit to the Union Gospel Mission of Portland organization. Drake saw how packed the shelter was and felt compelled to donate money to help improve the organization. Stacy Kean, now-communications director of Union Gospel, told E! News that Drake’s contribution “really helped,” as the winter is the company’s busiest season.
September 2013: Drake and The Game Join Forces to Help Ohio Mother Who Lost Her Family
Back in September 2013, The Game shared a story of a woman named Anna who lost her five children and her boyfriend in a fire at their home in Ohio. After hearing news of Anna’s tragic loss, Game teamed up with Drake to donate $10,000 each to help cover the funeral costs and provide Anna with her own personal vehicle.
June 2014: Drake Kicks Off Inaugural Houston Appreciation Weekend
Drizzy has always called Houston home and showed his appreciation to the city with the inaugural Houston Appreciation Weekend celebration. For the first annual HAW, Drake lined up a basketball game featuring his celebrity friends and Houston natives Kirko Bangz and Dez Bryant as well as Houston Rockets point guard James Harden. Proceeds from the ticket sales benefited charities hand-selected by Drake, including the Houston Food Bank, Interfaith Ministries, Keep Houston Beautiful and the T.J. Ford Foundation.
July 2015: Houston Appreciation Weekend Celebrity Softball Game
After a successful inaugural Houston Appreciation Weekend in 2014, Drake returned with the second installment, this time creating a softball tournament for fans to enjoy. Drizzy teamed up with celebrities like Hannibal Buress, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jas Prince for the softball game, with proceeds benefiting the Houston Astros’ Urban Youth Academy -- an organization dedicated to providing free baseball and softball camps and training programs to children ages 7-17.
March 2015: Drake Helps Fund a Philadelphia High School's Recording Studio
Drake’s philanthropic efforts didn’t stop as his star continued to rise. Before Drake and Meek Mill traded disses over a slew of tracks in July 2015, Drake treated a Philadelphia high school to a new recording studio after hearing news that the students were without a proper space to create music. The rapper donated $75,000 to the Strawberry Mansion High School and announced his generous gift when he invited the students to attend his concert back in October 2013.
“This is about you. This is about your principal. This is about your future," Drake told the students, according to The Associated Press. "I love you. I care about you. I want to see you succeed.
August 2017: Drake Joins Celebrities in Donating to Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and the surrounding areas in August, Drake expressed his love even more by donating a hefty amount of money to support the victims affected by the tropical storm. While performing in London, Drake took to his socials to encourage the Hurricane Harvey victims to remain strong and announced his donation of $200,000 to his friend and Houston Texans wide receiver J.J Watts’ relief fund.
January 2018: Drake Partners With the Raptors to Host “Welcome Toronto” Basketball Games
The Toronto Raptors unveiled their new OVO “City Editions” jerseys earlier in January and announced their new partnership with Drake, in which the team will host six home games dubbed “Welcome Toronto.” Drake and the Raptors have pledged to donate $1 million to help repair basketball courts throughout the city.
“As this team and Toronto continues to grow, we have seen how much we can do together,” Drake said in a press release. “'Welcome Toronto’ is about celebrating our team and our city, but also working together to give back to the community and creating a place where the youth of our city can come together to play. These same courts could also potentially shape the next generation of Canadian basketball superstars.”
The next “Welcome Toronto” games will take place on March 9, March 23 and April 6.
February 2018: Drake Heads on a Good Samaritan Spree in Miami
After stepping away from music for much of 2017, Drake returned with two songs in January -- “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity” -- to hold fans over until a full project materializes. Drake’s “God’s Plan” soared to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and the single broke Spotify and Apple Music’s single-day streaming record. Drake decided to fly to Miami to give “God’s Plan” the video treatment, and while filming the video at a local Miami high school, Drake took a moment to donate $25,000 to the Miami Senior High School and announced he’d also be donating OVO-designed uniforms.
Destiny James, a student at the University of Miami, was also gifted a $50,000 check from the “Blem” rapper. Next up on his Miami tour, Drake stopped by a homeless shelter to donate another $50,000 to the organization and even passed out $150 Target gift cards for families to shop with. The generous rapper then paid the Sabor Tropical Supermarket in Miami a visit where he paid for customers’ groceries.
J. Cole is easily one of the most socially conscious rappers in hip-hop. Roc Nation's golden child has been at the forefront of activism for the past few years and he isn't afraid to stand up or support what he believes in regarding injustice and problems in society. While he may not be as active on social media when it comes to hot topics like many of his rap counterparts, Cole makes his actions count in other ways.
Like Cole, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a stand on the issues that matters most. Recently, the football player has been making national headlines for his refusal to stand during the National Anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality and racism in America.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said of his decision. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
This is just one of many instances of the Cole World creator doing his due diligence to combat the atrocities that have affected African Americans' lives on a daily basis.
HHCN has gathered a collection of the many socially conscious and politically active moments throughout J. Cole's career. Check out his moves below.
Wears Colin Kaepernick's Movement by Wearing His Jersey
Sends Donald Trump Protestor Free Merch
When video surfaced of Thomas DiMassimo's Dreamville T-shirt being torn to shreds after being tackled for protesting at Donald Trump’s Ohio rally this spring, DiMassimo expressed his sadness on Twitter.
“And they ripped [the shirt] and I’m so salty bout it. I got it at Cole first Dollar and Dream tour when he performed in ATL.”
J. Cole’s manager, Ibrahim Hamad, reached out to DiMassimo and told him he could expect a box of new Dreamville merch soon. “All good bro,” Hamad wrote. “We’ll send you a box of Dreamville gear on us. Be safe out there
Performs at DNC Fundraising Event
During President Obama’s eight-year run as Commander-in-Chief, he's continuously shared his love of rap music by welcoming more than few rappers to the White House and naming Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar as mainstays on his playlist. When the DNC held a fundraiser in Austin, Texas on March 11, he called on J. Cole to be the musical guest. It didn't stop there, Obama shouted out the North Carolina rapper and said that he loves Cole's music.
Attends Million Man March
J. Cole participated in the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, which was organized by The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan two decades ago. The Justice or Else event took place last October at the National Mall. Also attending was Common, Jay Electronica, Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign and more.
Marches With Protestors in New York
Following the decision of a Staten Island grand jury declining to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, New York City erupted in 2014. The announcement that an indictment was not forthcoming sparked protests in New York and around the country. J. Cole joined protests in Eric Garner's honor in New York.
Starts a Slave Rebellion in "G.O.M.D." Video
J. Cole released the “G.O.M.D.” video to much praise in 2015. The rapper plays a house slave who stages a slave uprising, rallying the plantation’s servants to revolt against their owners. The visual subliminally touches on America's dark history and complexion stigmas. The video is directed by Lawrence Lamont, the guy behind Big Sean’s “IDFWU” video.
Saint Heron spoke with J. Cole about the meaning of the video.
“Well, I struggled, because first of all, I wanted to do like a Hype Williams-style video for this song so bad, because I’ve never done one of those. I felt like if I did do one of those, this would be the song to do it with. So, I battled with that urge to go the typical route with this video, because I feel like that’s what everyone expected. And every video I’ve ever done has never really been expected, so I was just like fuck it, let’s do it. The video is really more of a commentary on the need for unity and togetherness more so than it is a comment on racism, because [the black community] knows—we all know about oppression. We’re all aware of that. What we’re not aware of is the dysfunction within our own community. You know what I mean? The fact that there are levels to us economically and because of the different skin colors within our own race. We’re not aware of that. We’re aware of the other shit. Yeah, we’re against the outside, but we’re not looking around and being like, damn, we’re actually against each other too. It’s like the minute that we come together and start to cut out all of the classism that exists among black people and the skin color differences among black people. It’s really for that reason. Then there’s this whole “real nigga” conversation. The field niggas are the real niggas. Today, the schoolboy—the boy who went to college and did something with himself—he’s the soft, house nigga.”
Speaks With Tavis Smiley About the Importance of Reading
When J. Cole walked onto the set before doing an interview on Tavis Smiley, he was seen clutching a copy of Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Smiley spotted the read, which happens to be the book he wrote on the last year of the Reverend’s life. They discussed the importance of being a voracious reader, something the rapper hopes he can use as a descriptor by the time he turns 40 in 10 years.
Visits Ferguson and Shows Support for Michael Brown
J. Cole showed up to Ferguson, Mo. to support the community in the wake of Michael Brown's death. The rapper spoke about why he was hesitant to do interviews during the situation and the significance of what was going on in Ferguson and cited an article titled, “America Is Not for Black People.”
“We was passionate,” J. Cole says. “But life goes on and niggas start worrying about Instagram and reality TV … and life happens. Unfortunately, last week, it was the same ole, ‘Damn, that’s fucked up.’ This week, it’s like, ‘What can we do?'”
Performs “Be Free” on Late Show With David Letterman
Fresh off the release of his latest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole hit the Late Show With David Letterman stage in 2014 to perform “Be Free,” a tribute dedicated to Michael Brown.
Cole performed the heartfelt song and added a new verse. “Forget this chain, cuz this aint me/Though i’m eternally grateful to Jay Z/We’re so elated we celebrated like Obama waited until his last day in office to tell the nation brothers is gettin’ they reparations,” he rhymes.
Pays Tribute to Michael Brown During Made in America Performance
Prior to his performance at the Philly edition of the Made in America Festival in 2014, J. Cole’s DJ played “Be Free,” his song dedicated to Brown, while a montage featuring police brutality showed on the big screens.
Cole then emerged to run through songs from his successful string of mixtapes and albums, but the opening song and montage made it clear that the focus should be on the horrifying relationship between police and people of color in America.
Hip Hop Mogul Master P and his Team Hope NOLA Foundation partnered with ESSENCE and Walmart to beautify the local Guste Senior Residences in New Orleans.
Over 50 volunteers and his Team Hope NOLA partner/New Orleans Pelicans coach Robert Pack, Master P gave the facility a mini makeover that included painting, landscaping and serving meals to the Guste residents. Addressing the residents briefly as they enjoyed breakfast, P was humbled to be able to express his gratitude for some of the many community members whom he says played an integral role in his success.
“I just want to tell everybody here, I’m so excited,” he told the crowd. “A lot of the people here helped raise me. These are the people that watched over us and looked over us. I couldn’t be here where I’m at today without you guys.”
“I just want to tell everybody here, I’m so excited,” he told the crowd. “A lot of the people here helped raise me. These are the people that watched over us and looked over us. I couldn’t be here where I’m at today without you guys.