Fresh off bringing back colonization to Africa, Julieanna Goddard (aka YesJulz) is catching flack once again — this time, for a recent “freestyle” on 1AM Radio’s ‘1AM Live’ show.
“Because my ass is fat and my skin ain’t Black, I’m a culture catcher. Yet they never do nothing and they never give back. They keep killing Blacks,” Goddard trailed off.
While we have a unified assumption of who she’s referring to when saying “they”, we’d like to take a minute to remind her that since the beginning of hip-hop culture, Black artists have been giving back to their communities. From toy drives and turkey giveaways to tuition payments and building medical infrastructure, rappers and executives alike have played a strategic role in continuing to elevate their hometown communities and beyond.
While this list only touches the surface, we thought it was important to highlight 35 ways artists in our culture give back.
Cash Money Records — Keeping with tradition, this year will mark the 23rd annual Cash Money Records Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway in New Orleans. Slim and Baby, who founded the label, have made a lifelong commitment to philanthropy, co-founding The Johnny and Gladys Williams foundation named after their parents. But it’s not just turkeys that they hand out. As of 2013, they’ve offered full-service health screenings by Oschsner Health Systems, including checks for cholesterol and blood pressure, eye exams, dental care, diabetes and more.
“The Turkey Giveaway is something we’ve been doing since the beginning of Cash Money,” states Ronald ‘Slim’ Williams. “The moment we made it, we knew we had to lift up our hometown. It was always a part of the label’s vision and brand from day one. Over the years, it’s become something the community can rely on and trust. To me, that’s our greatest accomplishment. We’ve received so many blessings, we want to share those with the city we love and call home.”
A few years ago, YG sent social media into a baby fever frenzy when he posted his adorable daughter Harmony, but as she grows, he also wants her to know she can be whoever she wants to be. As STEM programming remains male-dominated, in August 2018, YG donated $150,000 to Girl Code LA, an organization founded by Dez White, which exposes young women to computer science, business and software engineering. He also gifted all the young participants Beats By Dre headphones.
“Gender bias plays a role in the amount of exposure students receive in regards to technology and coding. This leads to influence future decisions within their field, creating smaller opportunities for diversity. With my donation, I hope they’ll be able to expand their reach of future female coders and programmers. I want to make sure I’m doing my part, I got a daughter and I respect the G Code.”
Vince has used his larger-than-life voice to talk about social and political issues affecting the Black community at large but has also quietly put money back into these very same communities. In 2016, Vince donated an undisclosed amount to a YMCA program called the Youth Institute, whose goal was to help 20 eighth and ninth graders learn filmmaking, graphic design, production design, and music production. He has also hosted charity football games, and last year, after raising $2K from his “early retirement” GoFundMe campaign, refunded the donations but matched it to donate to the Michelle Obama Library of Long Beach.
“I want to be able to be one of the people that reinforces the fact that we matter just as much as the next person. That’s actually the biggest thing I can do for this community. I think the most important thing is opportunities,” he continued. “What I can say is, living over here my entire life, I’ve never had an opportunity given to me from the area, only examples of how to mess up, and what I didn’t want to do.”
Despite his own unfair circumstances these past few years, Meek Mill has still made it a priority to give back to his hometown of Philly, as well as other communities in need. In 2016, he donated 60,000 bottles of water towards the Flint, MI community, bought 100 tickets for Philly kids to attend UniverSoul Circus, and just before being sent back to jail in 2017, he participated in James Harden’s JH-Town charity game. Even while incarcerated, he donated $10,000 to Colin Kapernick’s ‘Million Dollar Pledge,’ which went towards Youth Services Inc. in Philly. But Meek’s real power has come in the past year, specifically after being released. Though has Meek made prison reform his priority, talking to various organizations and political levels about the changes that need to be made, he’s still committed to bettering his city and teamed up with Puma to distribute 6,000 backpacks to students from 12 schools throughout the Philly district this past fall.
“Growing up in Philly, I’ve watched families struggle to make ends meet and buy basic school supplies for their kids. Those memories stay with me and that’s why I’m committed to giving back to families in my hometown, putting smiles on kids’ faces and helping them start the school year on the right note with the right supplies.”
When you’re as financially powerful as Dr. Dre, there’s a need to give back. Alongside Jimmy Iovine, in 2013 the duo donated $70 million to the University of Southern California to create the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business Innovation. In addition to that, in 2017, Dr. Dre pledged to donate $10 million to assist in building a performing arts center at the new Compton High School — construction is set to begin in 2020.
“My goal is to provide kids with the kind of tools and learning they deserve,” Dr. Dre said in a statement. “The performing arts center will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.”
Since the beginning of his mainstream career, TIP has been giving back. Not only has he talked two individuals away from committing suicide, not only did he help a victim of a shooting at his own concert, not only did he rescue someone from a car crash and not only did he make arrangements for 14 families to visit their incarcerated loved ones, TIP has played an integral part in launching the ‘Give Like A King’ campaign, which served the needs of the homeless vets in America. Additionally, TIP and Tiny co-founded the For The Love Of Our Fathers Alzheimer’s Foundation in honour of his late father and seeks to inform & support families living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
In addition to the Cash Money annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway, Lil Wayne’s philanthropic efforts extend to his One Family Foundation, which he founded in 2007. But even before the foundation’s existence, Tunechi was helping out his hometown after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. From creating opportunities for disadvantaged youth, donating money to revitalize parks and basketball courts or partnering with a youth mentoring program to help him create his Mountain Dew ‘DEWeezy’ campaign, Lil Wayne’s work shouldn’t go unnoticed.
A year after escaping an abusive relationship herself, Lil Kim founded the Lil Kim Cares Foundation in 2004 to assist in raising money for several social issues, including domestic violence against women, child neglect, transitional living, homelessness and to help raise awareness for HIV/AIDS prevention. While she isn’t actively saying what has been happening with that foundation, we can assume that she’s become a silent donor to several causes.
Through his Leading By Example foundation, over the past three years, 21 Savage has been hosting an annual back-to-school drive in Atlanta which not only offers school supplies but also gives away free haircuts, food, and clothing. However, in 2018, 21 Savage took his philanthropic efforts one step further by launching his financial literacy campaign, 21 Savage’s Bank Account. The program not only teaches youth about investments and savings, but 21 partnered with Get Schooled to give away $1000 to 21 participants so they can start their account.
“My biggest record to date is called Bank Account. It’s ironic because growing up in Atlanta, I knew almost nothing about bank accounts,” said 21 Savage, “Now that I do have money in my bank account, I want to help kids with a background similar to mine to get smart about their money.”
Founded in 2001, Ludacris launched his own foundation to reach underserved youth and communities particular in Atlanta, with the hopes of letting no one go unnoticed. Through the annual LudaDay Weekend, the LudaCrismas and LudaCares’ Thanksgiving program, the ATL rapper has aimed to help reduce hunger, give toys and ultimately, give back. He has also partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has done special hospital and military performances for both active soldiers and veterans.
Though Travis Scott may not have his own charity, that doesn’t mean he’s not still doing the work. He helped host a Thanksgiving turkey and toy drive in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, as well as participating in the ‘Hand in Hand’ benefit that raised millions of dollars for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. And for fans, he’s also opened his pockets — last summer, he decided to give away $100K to fans that tweeted them their CashApp names with lyrics to Astro World. Now, as he preps to perform at the Super Bowl, he has partnered with the NFL to donate $500,000 to the Dream Corps charity, which was founded by Van Jones in 2014 and advocates for social justice.
“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in. I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”
With Detroit on his back, Big Sean’s Sean Anderson Foundation has been promoting education, safety and health and well-being in and around his hometown. Aside from monetary donations, giveaways, building a recording studio at his alma mater and of course, raising awareness about the ongoing Flint Water Crisis, the foundation has two specific programs they. run: Mogul Prep, which pairs high school students with influential members of the music community in an open forum, and Project Knapsack, which gives out backpacks of supplies and partners students in the US with pen pals across Africa.
“My vision for the Sean Anderson Foundation is simply to make the lives of young people better. I want to be an inspiration to young people, by showing them that hard work and determination pay off, to be an example of what can happen when you follow your dreams, and to be an instrument of encouragement for us all to help ourselves and to support one another. Detroit and the entire country have shown me so much love and I passionately want to return that love.”
Since 2007, Trae Tha Truth has been hosting his annual Trae Day event in Houston, which doubles as a concert ass well as a giveaway for school supplies, and offers both vaccinations and HIV testing. Every. Year. But what made 2016’s event even more special is after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, he hopped in a boat to help residents and bystanders get to safety.
“Our mission is to foster civic action through arts and entertainment, facilitating sustainable change,” is the overall mission statement of Vic Mensa’s Save Money Save Lives Foundation. With a focus on mental health and environment justice, the foundation has launched programs such as uniVERSE (which encourages STEM programming and cultural arts for youth) and Street Medics (dedicated to training civilians as trauma and mental health first responders within neighborhoods of Chicago). In addition to the programs, Mensa is still in the streets fighting for justice. This past August, after an incident where Chicago police attempted to lure people into arrest with a “bait truck” filled with shoes, Mensa hosted an “anti-bait truck” giveaway, where he handed out shoes to the Englewood community.
Since the late 90s, Missy Elliott has found all kinds of ways to donate her time and resources back to the universe. While we may not see it first hand, she has donated funds to help find a cure for HIV/AIDS, as well as organizations that fight against youth violence. In 1999, Missy worked with supermodel Iman to launch her own lipstick called ‘Misdemeanor Lipstick’ and donated the proceeds to Break The Cycle, and again in with MAC AIDS Fund in 2005 to launch the Viva Glam V Lipstick Campaign. She followed up with donating over $30K for the program Staying Alive Foundation on behalf of the MAC AIDS Fund.
Before its rebrand as Donda’s House last year, Kanye West co-created the Dr. Donda West Foundation with Rhymefest to honour his late mother in 2013. At the time, the 120-week program was an artist incubator, providing classes in creative writing and studio recording, as well as health and wellness education for youth between 14-24 years old. Donda’s House continues to operate and serve youth.
Following the sudden passing of A$AP Yams in 2015, his family and friends created the Always Strive and Prosper Organization to continue honouring his name, and the legacy he built. With a focus on educating youth about substance use and abuse, as well create programming that emphasizes performing and visual arts for youth, sponsoring public school programs and producing concerts and festivals, like Yams Day.
For the past few years, Quavo has been a dedicated donor to his alma mater Berkmar High School. In 2017, after being gifted a gold company card by Finish Line, which grants him an unlimited supply of sneakers, he paid it forward and presented his old high school’s basketball team custom LeBron 15s. The following year, Quavo hosted his first charity flag football game in Gwinnett County, which he named Huncho Day, that was attended and played by the likes of Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Lil Baby, YFN Lucci and of course, NFL players. All proceeds were given back to the high school’s football team.
In 2017, Nicki Minaj announced that she was going to start her own foundation “very soon,” but as per her philanthropic history, it would’ve been done quietly and without noise — much like her donations to several villages in India through the Pearl Foundation over the past several years. In addition to the goodwill abroad, she went on a “charity spree” on Twitter and paid off the tuition of several students in May 2017. It was followed up with the creation of the Student of the Game college tuition fund, which lead to another 37 students either having their tuition paid off or money donated to continue their education.
Established in 2015, the Making Wishes Matter foundation has made it their mission to not only empower youth and their talents but also assist with less fortunate families (i.e. food security) and generally, making the wishes of individuals in their community come true. Working with other organizations like Children Health Care of Atlanta, Atlanta Mission, and Boys2Men, Mike’s foundation has held dinners for single mothers, holiday parties for seniors, and of course, several events for underserved kids. In August 2018, Mike teamed up with Slim Jxmmi and awarded 10 high school graduates across the country a total of $100K to help cover their college expenses.
Though we’ve gone through many name changes with Sean Combs over the years, the one thing that has stuck is his commitment to charity work, specifically with regards to education. After establishing Daddy’s House in the 90s, an organization that offered social programming to underserved youth, Diddy has gone on to work with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, as well as gifting $1M to Howard University and establishing the Sean Combs Scholarship Fund, which has a focus on business majors. And of course, we all remember when Diddy ran in the New York City Marathon in 2003, for which he raised $2M to support youth education as well as children suffering from HIV/AIDS. These efforts continued, and n 2016, Diddy opened up a charter school in Harlem, which has now expanded to two other locations (Diddy also pledged another $1M this past October.)
With a focus on “character development, social impact, healthy living, technology, financial literacy, creative arts, and global leadership”, the Common Ground Foundation has hopes of not just educating youth, but also preparing them for the future. Through the organization, several programs exist, including Youth Mentoring, Transition to College, Dreamers & Believers Summer Camp and a Youth & Business Leadership conference. Over the years, Common has also personally donated to several educational institutions through AdoptAClassroom.org, including the Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem and P.S. 111 in Manhattan.
“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help. Most of all help people to help themselves. I always believed that if we started with the youth then we would be planting the seeds for our future to blossom. Give the children a sense of hope, self-esteem, and love that will better the world…I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose. I walk this path with faith knowing that the Common Ground Foundation will Change the World.”
The city of Houston recognizes February 25th as the official Slim Thug Day. Why? Because of his charity work. Through his BossLife Foundation, as well as his housing corporation BossLife Construction, Slim Thug has made affordable housing and overall wellness of lower-income communities his mission. Following Hurricane Harvey, Slim gifted one family a new home and assisted nine others with $5,000 gift cards. More recently, on January 20th, he hosted the 2019 Boss Life Ball, where all proceeds from the event were set to fund scholarships for upcoming high school graduates.
“I always say whenever something bad happen to me, don’t trip, get excited because I know something good coming after that. So hopefully, whoever dealin’ with this situation, whoever lost their home. You know whoever family had to suffer from the hurricane… I hope this turn into a blessing. Hopefully we can come together and it inspires other people to come together to keep giving back to the community.”
Let’s be clear: Jeezy has been giving back for almost 20 years. He’s been giving so much that he, and his Street Dreamz Foundation which was founded in 2001, has been honoured for his community service by Atlanta’s former mayor Kassim Reed with the Phoenix Award — the highest honour an individual or group can receive from the City of Atlanta. Whether donating $1M to the Jay Morrison Academy, an educational institution that encourages financial literacy and property ownership, opening his house to Hurricane Katrina victims, hosting toy drives or running alongside currently Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms in a 10K run with effort of raising $1M for non-profits in the city, Jeezy has been an OG when it comes to giving back.
Though this post is about Black artists, African-born French Montana has made it his mission to send money back to his home continent. After featuring Ugandan youth in the 2017 “Unforgettable” video, French Montana donated $100K to the country’s Mama Hope Foundation, which subsequently lead to Diddy and Weeknd matching that donation. The donations resulted in the opening of the Suubi “Hope” Health Center in Uganda, which services upwards of 300K people. In turn, French became the first rapper named a Global Citizen Ambassador by Global Citizen. In addition to his efforts in Uganda, French is announced in 2018 that he is now turning his focus on his home country of Morocco.
“We expanding our platform to Morocco. Building up our…a couple of things that are going to help the kids in Morocco, you know…The whole idea of this is to spark the mind of the world leaders, you know. To help them do something on a bigger scale than what we doing. I just feel like all the mothers and children should have the right care, you know. It should never be a privilege, it should be a right.”
If you added up how much (known) money Chance The Rapper donated back into Chicago in just 2018 alone, the number amounts to just under $3.5M. Through his non-profit SocialWorks and its partners, Chance has donated $1M towards health initiatives and $2.2M to (100K/annually over 3 years to 20 schools) specifically to enrich their computer science and arts programs. Although that was just 2018, Chance has consistently been involved with school initiatives, was the first rapper to bring a sign language interpreter on tour, paid for an entire movie theatre so Chicagoans could see Get Out for free, gave out 30,000 stuffed back-to-school backpacks at a free concert, encouraged the #SaveChicago hashtag to end gun violence for 42-hours, etc. There’s no limit to what he won’t do.
Since 2011, A Fabolous Way Foundation’s mission has been to “empower and install a culture of achievement within the city of New York,” as per their website. And Included in the work that the foundation does is the Three Kings Coat Drive, which collects winter coats for those in need. In its first year, the coat drive collected over 100,000 jackets.
Editor’s Note: While we do not condone domestic violence, and acknowledge the charges in play, this is a focus on a foundation that does great work.
In 2015, Kendrick Lamar was recognized as the 35th Senate District’s Generational Icon on the California Senate — particular with regards to his work with Compton’s school district and various charities. While we know Kendrick to be a voice of several social justice issues, it started to be noticed in 2013 when he dropped off a $50K cheque to his alma mater so that they could expand their music department programming — he even went on to bring a group of kids from the school to the Grammy’s in 2016. Other efforts include his 2014 5-city tour (including Toronto) which raised money for Habitat for Humanity and the city of Compton, headlining a Red Cross concert that benefitted homeless women and children, as well as people in need in India. He’s helped fans, partnered with politicians and has the key to Compton for a reason.
“This an honour to be right here in front of you guys. Being from the city of Compton and knowing the parks that I played at and neighbourhoods, I always thought how great the opportunity would be to give back to my community. …To do that from a city all the way to a state standpoint, and have these young kids look at me as some type of inspiration is an honour, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The MMG boss has always had a big voice, but he’s used it to also make changes in the communities he calls home, and abroad. In 2010, he hosted a blood drive following an earthquake that ravaged Haiti, in 2012, he donated Reeboks and iPads to his hometown high school in Florida and of course, he hosts an annual toy giveaway around the holidays. But as of 2014, Rick Ross has gone one step further and founded In A Big Way Charity. In 2014, Ross bought a 109-room mansion (Evander Holyfield’s former home) in Georgia, which he said would open the doors to for kids to dream a little bigger.
If there’s one thing that drives The Game, it’s about helping the people around him. After launching the Robin Hood Project in 2013, the Game has raised awareness about police brutality and other socio-political issues (i.e the Flint Water Crisis), while also helping people in need. In 2015, he held a giveaway where he’d give $1000 to one fan over the span of 25 days. At this point, he’s definitely reached his goal of giving away over $1M of his own money.
“The Robin Hood Project is a charity set up by me to give back to the people. See I figured once you have everything, as a celebrity, once you have money, once you have cars, once you have family, once you have fans, once you’ve been around the world, what else is there to do besides start giving back?
Founded in 2003 by G-Unit members, as well as the late Chris Light the G-Unity Foundation has had a mission of donating to organizations and companies that help less privileged youth and communities and also funds educational programs and the creation of parks and safe spaces. This past December, 50 Cent wrote a $3M cheque to the organization to continue its efforts. On his own, in 2012 50 Cent joined Feeding America’s entertainment council and gave the proceeds from the sales of his SMS Audio headphones to the organization. While 50 has given from his heart, in 2016, after mocking a 19-year old Autism man, he donated $100K to Autism Speaks with hopes of making peace with both the community and his family.
“I want to turn this misunderstanding into an understanding. There are people that are ignored, mistreated and neglected with disabilities that need our support. Today, I have made a donation of $100,000 to this worthy cause through Autism Speaks.”
J. Cole has always been the voice of dreamers, but after establishing The Dreamville Foundation in 2011, he decided to take it one step further and “bridge the gap between the worlds of opportunity and the urban youth of Fayetteville, NC” according to the organization. To promote the idea of limitless potential, the foundation hosts two annual programs — the Back To School Supply Giveaway. and the Annual Dreamville Weekend — as well as other events such as the Young Men’s Book Club which is partnered with DTLR Book Club for Boys and the Nobody’s Perfect Writing Contest and Mother’s Day Brunch, which encourages participants to write about their mothers or primary caretakers and is followed up with a celebratory brunch. Moreover, after buying back his childhood home in 2014, J. Cole outlined on The Combat Jack Show that he wanted to make the home into a “haven” for single mothers, which would include allowing potential families to live rent-free, and following Hurricane Harvey last year, the foundation set out to raise money for relief efforts.
Jay-Z’s charity efforts are quiet but impactful. Higher learning is the focus of the Shawn Carter Foundation, which is streamlined through scholarship funds, get-ready programs, International opportunities, professional development and more. Since its inception in 2003, the organization has raised over $4M towards these programs. However, outside the organization, Hov has taken on social justice issues, particularly pertaining to lower income BIPOC communities. Whether making an effort to reunite incarcerated men with their children for Father’s Day, sending supplies to victims of natural disasters, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in Baltimore, setting up a trust fund for Sean Bell’s children, telling Kalief Browder’s story or donating his own goods on eBay to send kids to college, millions of dollars have poured down from the Carter household to the community. And of course, in partnership with TIDAL, the TIDAL X concert benefits various charities — this year, it had a focus on prison reform which we profiled here.
Uncle Snoop has done so much charity work that it’s actually difficult to keep up with it. Alongside his Save A Life Foundation, Snoop has also founded the Snoop Youth Football League to keep kids off the streets and staying active on the field — it also requires strict academic discipline to participate. Snoop has played in several charity games himself, and even won $72K for the foundation in a charity game of ‘The Price Is Right’. Outside of sports, Uncle Snoop has auditioned off time in the studio with him to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity’s Operation Home Delivery Fund, and has given back to the Shriners Hospital for Children, the Orca Network and the Mind Gardens Initiative in Jamaica, which he launched to assist in ending child hunger. More recently, Snoop donated $35K to Colin Kaepernick’s “Million Dollar Pledge,” which was then donated to Mothers Against Police Brutality in Dallas, TX.
Drake is another artist who is quiet with his donations, but his impact is felt in the communities he serves — especially in Toronto. While we saw him donate $1M in the “God’s Plan” video, including a donation of $25,000 to Miami Senior High School and a $50,000 scholarship to one student, as well as $50,000 on groceries for roughly 50 customers and another $50,000 to a homeless shelter and $150 Target gift cards for the 130 women who live there, Drake’s charity extends far beyond one video. Whether it’s a learning center in Kingston, Jamaica, disaster relief and food security in Houston, a recording studio in Philadelphia or assisting in the living conditions of a shelter in Portland, Drake has been donating his time and money since 2011. And of course, back home, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Most recently, he teamed up with the Raptors to pledge a collective $1M to refurbish basketball courts in the city, and an additional $2M to Canada Basketball.
”The thing I’m most proud of this partnership is the million dollars that we’re going to be giving to the city to re-do these courts. Hopefully to create an amazing atmosphere for anyone in that community to come out and either play casual basketball or potentially breed the next generation of Canadian superstar basketball players.”
Great allies are necessary for any movement. Through The Marshal Mathers Foundation, which provides assistance to disadvantaged and at-risk youth, specifically in Detroit and surrounding communities, Eminem has partnered with several organizations to promote education, health, and overall social wellness. Some of the organizations he’s partnered with include Michigan AIDS Coalition, Families Against Narcotics, Excellence for Detroit, Life Ties and the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.
The views of our contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of Boi-1da.