WASHINGTON - A hip-hop political fusion erupted Sunday evening as the second Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball made its way to Washington, D.C.
Thrown by Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network along with Philanthropik, the hip-hop industry was the primary guest of honor as many noted its role in recent elections and promoting political awareness.
Boasting “the dopest ball ever,” E! News anchor Terrence J and actress and television personality Lala Anthony hosted the star-studded black-tie charity gala that also honored celebrities for their work mobilizing communities to participate in the political process, impacting their various industries.
Accepting the humanitarian award, John Legend said he believes hip-hop played a prominent part in President Barack Obama winning the presidency.
“I think hip-hop had a role in making sure that we elected a black president in America, because we made it so that black people were in people’s homes,” he said to a packed crowd at the Harman Center for the Arts.
Continuing, Legend said, “I think it made Barack Obama and other people like him possible, so I’m really grateful for hip-hop and the role that it’s played in society.”
Hip-hop visionaries MC Lyte and Doug E. Fresh took home lifetime achievement awards and reminisced about the paths of their legendary careers.
“I don’t even know what to do with that,” Fresh joked about what Russell Simmons said when he introduced him to his beatboxing several years ago.
Fresh teamed up with actor-singer-comedian Wayne Brady, beatboxing while Brady sang a medley of mellow tunes to the audience that included Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” eventually leading Brady into a rap freestyle.
“Music, art and TV just reflects what’s happening in the state of the country, so it’s a cultural thing,” Brady said of hip-hop’s role in electing Obama. “So if you have a culture behind a certain movement, then that movement has power to do things like elect a president.”
Rappers YoYo, Lil Mama and MC Smooth took the audience back to the eighties and nineties as they honored Lyte’s exemplary career and her work with the Hip-Hop Sisters Project with a performance.
Swizz Beatz was honored with the impact award for his charity efforts in Africa, while Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the CEO and Co-Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, was given a legacy award for his life of service.
Chavis’ lifelong commitment to the Civil Rights Movement and his advocacy and mentorship within the hip-hop community earned him the top honor.
Accepting the vanguard award for her work as chairman of Voto Latino, Roasrio Dawson said she was proud to have witnessed Obama win the presidency.
“We really saw this moment and we created this moment,” she told theGrio. “That’s what I love, is that it was destiny, but it was also hard work.” Dawson also spoke of the role the Hispanic hip-hop community played in galvanizing large numbers of people to vote.
As a spokesperson for the Hip-Hop Caucus’ “Respect My Vote!” campaign, 2 Chainz claimed the street soldier award for his work encouraging youths to vote.
“It means a lot for me. I came from nothing, and to be right here and get honored for this, I feel like it’s a great milestone,” the Grammy nominee said of his multiple-hit year with a possible “Rap Album of the Year” acolade looming.
“The hip-hop community has a big voice. It was time for people like myself and other artists to use the platform and our voice to kind of uplift the community,” the Grammy Award hopeful continued.
Picking up the community activist award, Meek Mill said, “being from the type of neighborhood I come from, if I can make a change or have an impact on the kids, I’ll always volunteer to do it.”
Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.