CLEVELAND — It all began at a back-to-school party, when DJ Kool Herc spun extended drum breaks with his turntables. Not long after that, people began rapping over these breaks, and the $10 billion per year industry known as hip-hop was born. Hip-hop since then has largely been known for being synonymous with struggle. Much of its content represent the voice of the underdog and many of its biggest stars are considered the underdogs. Whether the reason is empathy or kindness, hip-hop is no stranger to philanthropy. Below are three emcees that have given back to the world’s poor.
Jay-Z, the famed emcee and businessman, was a spokesperson for the United Nations, and in 2006, focused on the world water crisis. Jay-Z visited several schools and homes in Angola, South Africa and Durban. During this time, a 30-minute documentary was filmed by MTV entitled “Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life.” This documentary helped bring much needed awareness to the global water crisis. Jay-Z also raised a total of $250,000 toward Playpumps International, a nonprofit that provides water pumps for African villages. These pumps collect and store water utilizing merry go-rounds. As children play, water is pumped and stored.
Curtis Jackson, also known as 50 Cent, is no stranger to philanthropy either. Rapper 50 Cent visited Kenya and Somalia in 2012 to help raise awareness on famine and global hunger. Along with the U.N. World Food Programme, 50 Cent visited a Kenya slum, Somali border towns and refugee camps and orphanages in Nairobi. After visiting with the children and being inspired by their optimism, 50 Cent pledged to give 1 billion meals to the world’s hungry as well as one additional meal for every one of his new energy drinks, Street King, that was sold.
Controversial rapper and activist Immortal Technique took a hands-on approach in 2010, helping to build an orphanage in Afghanistan. The Peruvian-born emcee, Felipe Coronel, has been an activist both musically and practically. In 2006, an Afghan-American woman named Shamsia Razaqi, the nonprofit founder of Omeid International, approached Coronel. Omeid International’s goal was to construct a school, medical center and orphanage located in Kabul. The focus was on child refugees and giving them a choice, other than joining fundamentalist groups, to survive. Coronel raised $50,000 through benefit concerts and CD sales for Omeid International and traveled to Kabul to help build the orphanage. Coronel notes that the experience changed him: “It made me glad that I have my mother and my father…somebody…that loves you enough to say, ‘I’m not going to abandon you.’”
Many that travel overseas to visit and help the poor share Immortal Technique’s feelings. There is a sense of gratitude gained from the stunning realization that for us, in first world countries, life is just not that bad. Are you a hip-hop artist? If you saw what they saw, how would it affect you? The list of rapping philanthropists continues to grow. The Game, Lupe Fiasco, Nas, Kendrick Lamar and many more have since contributed, but the important question is, would you?