For decades, the hip-hop lifestyle has been synonymous with a certain love of luxury: fast cars, jewelry, gold teeth, and multi-million dollar mansions. Now, hip-hop as a genre is beginning to take on a more innovative and independent tact. Ira Riklis looks at how the genre’s biggest stars are using the proceeds from their multi-platinum records to make a positive difference in their communities and to contribute to charitable causes more broadly.
Putting A Spotlight On Hip-Hop Dogooders
Turning Ugly Sweaters Into A Good Cause
Atlanta-based rapper 2 Chainz draws inspiration from his difficult upbringing when he gives back to people in need. Sales of his “Dabbin’ Santa” ugly Christmas sweaters generated over $2 million that he later lavished upon the good causes that came his way.
Most of the beneficiaries of his generosity were residents of his hometown of College Park, Georgia. He bought a minivan for a family that had lost their home in a fire, paid a year’s worth of rent for a single mother and disabled veteran, and rented out a spacious home for a needy family of eleven. In an Instagram post, 2 Chainz wrote that he could still remember not having hot water as a child, and he felt motivated to use his success to help the less fortunate.
Ludacris Spits Bars, Provides Disaster Relief
Atlanta rapper Ludacris has given his time, energy, and financial contributions to disaster relief efforts all over the world. In the wake of the 2009 Atlanta flood, he donated to the recovery effort and personally handed out over 500 coats to students in need. When Typhoon Haiyan struck The Philippines in 2013, he led the charge by donating $50,000 to the five non-profit agencies managing the relief effort.
“We were put on this Earth to help others,” Ludacris said of his contributions. “All you blessed people go bless someone else.”
Chance The Rapper Helps A City In Need
Proud Chicagoan Chance the Rapper is no stranger to doing good. In 2014, he led a #SaveChicago social media campaign to discourage gun violence. Recently, he made a whopping $1 million contribution to Chicago Public Schools. Students were effusive in their praise of the rapper, with one student writing “you are more than just an artist to us, you are a way of life.”
In 2014, Kanye West and Common did their part to stamp out joblessness in Chicago. West’s Donda House charity and Common’s Common Ground Foundation pooled their funds to boost youth employment opportunities at the One Summer Chicago music festival.
With unemployment among young people soaring in America’s inner cities, these efforts are projected to lead to the creation of 15,000 new youth jobs by 2019. Common said of the project that he felt he had to “do more than just write songs about Chicago.”
Saving The Music
Queens native and old school rap legend, Nas, is a frequent contributor to VH1’s “Save the Music” foundation. In 2013, when a single father of eight lost his home in a fire, Nas launched a fundraising campaign that raised almost $65,000 to help the man get back on his feet. In 2011, he donated the proceeds from his first-ever painting to a children’s cancer charity.
From coast to coast and everywhere in between, modern hip-hop superstars are looking for ways to give back. While many of these contributions target specific cities and communities, rappers are also making donations to large charitable organizations and individual families in need.
Hip-hop has long been thought of as a genre of introspection, brashness, and bling, but that image is becoming a thing of the past. By drawing upon their own successes, hip-hop stars are contributing to the success of others.