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5 Artists Fighting For Social Justice Today: Megan Thee Stallion, Noname, H.E.R., Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
As we close out Black History Month, GRAMMY.com has rounded up five established and emerging artists who are fighting for racial and social justice today and proving that giving back is central to their art and careers
Although they may be best known for their hit songs and lively concerts, many of today's biggest Black artists have dedicated their time off stage to philanthropic efforts focusing on racial and social justice. It makes sense, of course: Giving back to major causes is not an abstract concept when many of their fans face these very same issues in their everyday lives.
From access to life-saving healthcare to funding for college to bail reform, today's Black music icons are continuing the good fight their musical progenitors launched decades ago. It's proof that the ongoing fight for equality and equity is as inspirational and urgent as ever.
As we close out Black History Month, GRAMMY.com has rounded up five established and emerging artists who are fighting for racial and social justice today and proving that giving back is central to their art and careers.
Megan Thee Stallion
Music and philanthropy go hand-in-hand for this H-town Hottie. Megan Thee Stallion has lent a helping hand to many causes like COVID-19 relief efforts and affordable access to college. In April 2020, she partnered with Amazon Music to donate money, supplies and Amazon Fire tables to residents and staff of the Park Manor Skilled Nursing Home in Houston. In June 2020, during the height of the George Floyd protests, she donated $10,000 to Restoring Justice, a criminal justice organization based in Houston. Later, she partnered with Fashion Nova to launch the "Women On Top" fund, which promises $1 million in grants and scholarships to supporting women, women-owned businesses and women-focused charities.
But her largest project yet will be the Pete and Thomas Foundation. Founded in memory of Megan's late parents, Joseph Pete Jr. and Holly Thomas, the Pete and Thomas Foundation, which will focus on education, housing and health & wellness, will uplift women, children, senior citizens, and underserved communities in Houston and around the world. "My parents raised me to help others and give back," Megan said in a recent Instagram post on her birthday announcing the foundation this month.
Creating a book club in today's music world might seem unusual, but Noname has never been your average artist. In 2019, the Chicago-bred rapper launched the Noname Book Club after a fan mentioned that they were reading the same book as her:, Jackson Rising, about Cooperation Jackson, an emerging set of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi. Noname chooses two books per month for the so-called "radical curated book list," with some chosen by fellow artists like Kehlani and Earl Sweatshirt.
Noname Book Club encourages participants to support locally owned bookstores and includes a list of bookstores around the U.S. owned by people of color. They've also partnered with local libraries in Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles to help readers find their books. Last year, Noname celebrated the launch of the book club's physical headquarters in Los Angeles, which focuses on food drives, book drives and political education classes, among other activities.
Although she still maintains a level of mystery in her artistry, H.E.R. is not afraid to use her music as a means of expression about her beliefs in social justice. In June 2020, H.E.R. dropped the GRAMMY-winning song "I Can't Breathe," which she released during the height of the George Floyd protests. The video for the song, which also won the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards' Video for Good category, featured footage from global protests fighting against systemic racism and police brutality.
In 2021, she released "Fight For You" for the soundtrack for the film Judas and the Black Messiah, which chronicles the assasination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton; the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song later that year. "Fight For You," which is currently nominated for multiple categories at the 2022 GRAMMYs show, including Song Of The Year, draws parallels between the fight for racial justice in the 1960s to struggles for racial justice in contemporary society.
He may release new music infrequently these days, but JAY-Z continues to stay active in his local communities. Some of his biggest philanthropic efforts date back nearly 20 years ago, including the Shawn Carter Foundation, which the rapper and entrepreneur founded with his mother to support students facing economic hardship through college.
Outside of these efforts, JAY-Z has also been a quiet supporter of victims and protestors of causes related to racial justice. Author dream hampton revealed that the rapper had established a trust fund for the children of Sean Bell, who, on the morning before his wedding, was tragically killed in 2006 by New York police officers who shot 50 rounds. JAY-Z and his wife Beyoncé have also reportedly donated to the bail funds for or bailed out protestors in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.
Since the beginning of her career, Alicia Keys has stayed active in supporting causes both close to home and around the world. In 2003, Keys co-founded Keep a Child Alive, an organization focusing on healthcare, housing and other services to communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. In 2016, it was reported that Keep A Child Alive's annual Black Ball fundraiser had raised $2.4 million in 2018 alone and more than $28.7 million collectively by 2016.
Keys also supports HIV/AIDS efforts in the U.S. In 2013, the singer partnered with Greater Than AIDS to launch EMPOWERED, a public information campaign focused on addressing HIV/AIDS with women in the U.S. Her numerous philanthropic efforts have earned Keys multiple awards, including the BET Humanitarian Award in 2009 and the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2017.
From Aretha Franklin To Public Enemy, Here's How Artists Have Amplified Social Justice Movements Through Music
Photos (L-R): Dasom Han, Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images, Gabriel Chiu, Rick Kern/Getty Images, Ethan Miller/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Han Myung-Gu/WireImage
Celebrate AAPI Month 2023 With A Genre-Spanning Playlist Featuring BLACKPINK, Yaeji, Olivia Rodrigo & More
Spotlighting artists of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, GRAMMY.com honors AAPI Heritage Month this May with 44 songs by Japanese Breakfast, NewJeans, Keshi and many more.
As spring blossoms and May rolls around, AAPI Heritage Month reminds us to recognize and reflect on the talents of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists — across the music industry and beyond.
It's vital to celebrate diversity year-round, and May sparks additional dialogue about reshaping spaces to be more inclusive, especially within industries that are traditionally difficult to break into. Today, the music community views difference not as an obstacle, but an opportunity to celebrate individual and collective identity.
While 2023 marks 60 years since the first Asian American GRAMMY winner, AAPI creatives have been making waves in the music community for centuries. Whether you're raging to Rina Sawayama's enterprising electropop or vibing out with NIKI's soulful indie musings, AAPI artists are continuing to shape contemporary genres like never before.
In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, GRAMMY.com compiled an original playlist to honor AAPI musicians' creativity and novelty. Take a listen to the playlist featuring more than 40 trailblazing creatives on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month this March, take a look at how teachers made a heartwarming impact on superstars like Katy Perry and John Legend.
Before Rihanna, Billy Joel and Jay-Z became some of the biggest names in music, they were students just like the rest of us. Without some particularly special teachers, they might not be the superstars they are today, and they all remember who first encouraged them.
Within the past few years, Rihanna made a special trip to a cricket match in England to reunite with her old P.E. teacher from Barbados, who she calls her "MVP"; Joel traveled back to his New York hometown to honor the teacher who said he should be a professional musician; and Jay-Z told David Letterman that his sixth grade English teacher made him fall in love with words.
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month — which raises awareness for supporting and cultivating worthwhile music programs in K-12 — GRAMMY.com highlights eight artists who have praised their teachers for making a lifelong impact.
After watching Joel tackle Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, his high school music appreciation teacher Chuck Arnold suggested that he consider music as a career.
"He said to me, you should be a professional musician," Joel recalled of his Hicksville High School mentor during a 1996 event at C.W. Post College. "Now, for a teacher to say that, it's like condemning someone to a life of poverty, drug taking, alcoholism and failure.
"A teacher is telling me this," he added seriously. "It had a huge influence on me."
In 2022, Joel was on hand to congratulate Arnold during the dedication of the Charles "Chuck" Arnold Theatre at the school. "This is for the coolest teacher there ever was," he praised.
.@CBSSunday surprised Lizzo with her high school band director, who encouraged her to apply herself when she was learning to play the flute — and her reaction was priceless: “Wow, I did it, didn't I?” https://t.co/dwffNvYzpb pic.twitter.com/xp5kDK5pWB— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 6, 2019
In 2019, CBS Sunday arranged a surprise visit with the singer and Manny Gonzales, the former band director at her alma mater, Elsik High School in Houston. She told the network that Gonzales helped her get a scholarship to study classical flute at University of Houston.
"You told my ass!" Lizzo exclaimed as she squeezed him. "You were like, 'Get it together, girl, 'cause you are special. Apply yourself!' Those moments meant so much to me."
The Atlanta DJ/producer and king of crunk has done more than take parties to the next level — he has invested in the educational future of children in Africa by building two schools in Ghana with the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise. He credits a mentor at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta for sparking his brain when he was a teenager.
"It was my music teacher [who inspired me to dream bigger]," he said in a 2019 interview with Yahoo! "I wanted to play drums, and if I didn't play drums, I wouldn't make music, and drums are the foundation for what I do."
Roddy Estwick was Rihanna's P.E. teacher in Barbados and is now the assistant coach of the West Indies cricket team. The two had an emotional reunion at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
"He made a lasting impact on my life and he really offered great advice to me and many others when we were at school at Combermere," she told Barbados Today amid their reunion. "I just wanted to let everyone know what he meant to me in my development and what he did for us back at school in Barbados." Essence reported that Rihanna described him as, "My mentor, my champ, my MVP" on her Instagram stories.
The Ohio native credits his English teacher Mrs. Bodey at North High School in Springfield for setting him on the path that culminated in his music career.
"Until her class, I hadn't believed in my ability as a writer," Legend shared in a 2017 op-ed for Huffington Post. "She recognized my potential and showed me that I could write with creativity, with clarity, with passion."
He continued, "Mrs. Bodey, along with a few other teachers, helped me gain confidence in my skills and pushed me to challenge myself. They pushed me to graduate second in my class. They pushed me to deliver the speech at our graduation. They pushed me to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, to hone my writing as an English Major and, ultimately, toward a successful career as a songwriter."
The singer was reunited with the most pivotal teacher in her life during her "An Audience with Adele" concert special in 2021. While the singer took questions from the crowd, actress Emma Thompson asked Adele if she had a supporter or protector in the past.
"I had a teacher at [south London high school] Chestnut Grove, who taught me English. That was Miss McDonald," Adele said. "She got me really into English literature. Like, I've always been obsessed with English and obviously now I write lyrics… She really made us care, and we knew that she cared about us."
Miss McDonald then surprised Adele on stage, and the singer was brought to tears — a touching highlight of the special. She even told her former teacher that she still has the books from her class!
While Perry has admitted that she wishes she had a better overall education, her former music school teacher gave her confidence to pursue singing seriously.
"I'm kind of bummed at this stage that I didn't have a great education because I could really use that these days," she said in a 2014 interview with Yahoo! "There was a teacher named Agatha Danoff who was my vocal teacher and music teacher at the Music Academy of the West. It was very fancy and I didn't come from any money… and she always used to give me a break on my lessons. I owe her a lot of credit and I appreciate that she looked out for me when I didn't have enough money to pay."
Picture a young Shawn Carter — now better known as Jay-Z — with his head stuck in a dictionary.
"I had a sixth grade teacher, her name was Ms. Lowden and I just loved the class so much," Jay-Z said during his appearance on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman in 2018.
He later realized how much Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, who taught him at Intermediate School 318 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, had an influence on his passion for language. "Like, reading the dictionary and just my love of words," he explained. "I just connected with her."
"I knew he was extremely bright, but he was quiet," Rosenblum-Lowden told Brut in 2019, sharing that he scored at the 12th-grade level on a sixth-grade reading test.
"He's been very kind," she added. "Every famous person has a teacher who probably influenced them, and I wish they would all shout out the way Jay-Z did."
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
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DJ Khaled Brings "God Did" To Life Alongside Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, John Legend, & Fridayy | 2023 GRAMMYs
Music's Biggest Night wrapped up in star-studded fashion thanks to DJ Khaled, who joined his "GOD DID" collaborators Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, John Legend, Jay-Z and Fridayy for an epic show-closing performance.
DJ Khaled closed out the 2023 GRAMMYs with a star-studded squad including Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, Fridayy, and Rick Ross on their collab "GOD DID."
Spilling into the street outside L.A.'s Crypto.com Arena, the assembled MCs and singers spit their verses and sang their hooks awash in purple light, with Legend seated behind a piano covered in flowers while the rest sat at an opulent, overflowing table in the style of the Last Supper.
"They didn't want us to win! So I made sure I was on the GRAMMYs stage with the biggest! This is for hip-hop!" Khaled shouted in between verses by Ross and Lil Wayne. And later, Jay-Z stole the spotlight as he testified, "These ain't songs, these is hymns 'cause I'm him/ It's the Psalm 151, this New Testament/ The book of Hov/ Jesus turned water to wine/ For Hove, it just took a stove."
The praiseworthy banger raked in three nominations at this year's awards show, including Song Of The Year, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. The album GOD DID was up for Best Rap Album.
The superproducer scored a sixth nomination in the Best Melodic Rap Performance category for "BEAUTIFUL," the Future and SZA-assisted album cut off GOD DID. He nabbed an additional nomination as a guest artist on Mary J. Blige's Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe), which is nominated for Album Of The Year.
Over the course of 2022, GOD DID earned Khaled his seventh career Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to lead single "Staying Alive" featuring Drake and Lil Baby. It also became his fourth chart-topping album on the Billboard 200.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
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DJ Khaled To Perform “God Did” At 2023 GRAMMYs With Musical Collaborators Fridayy, Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, And Rick Ross
The GRAMMY-nominated performer will perform at Music’s Biggest Night broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Feb. 5.
GRAMMY-nominee DJ Khaled is set to appear on the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast with his musical collaborators Fridayy, Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross to perform “God Did”, his track nominated for this year’s Song Of The Year.
DJ Khaled is nominated for six GRAMMY Awards this year, with five of those nominations for “God Did” including, Song Of The Year ("God Did"), Album Of The Year (God Did), Best Rap Song ("God Did"), Best Rap Album (God Did), Best Rap Performance (“God Did”), and Best Melodic Rap Performance ("Beautiful").
Music’s Biggest Night will be broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Feb. 5 (8:00 - 11:30 PM, live ET/5:00 - 8:30 PM, live PT). It will air on the CBS Television Network, stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Before, during and after the 2023 GRAMMYs, head to live.GRAMMY.com for exclusive, never-before-seen content, including red carpet interviews, behind-the-scenes content, the full livestream of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, and much more.