Rapper and social activist Killer Mike will receive the first-ever Billboard Change Maker Award at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards this week.
The Grammy winning co-founder of the highly respected rap duo Run the Jewels is due to accept the honor when the show airs live Wednesday night on NBC, dick clark productions announced Monday.
Killer Mike, also known as Michael Render, grew up in Atlanta in a family of community organizers, with a dad who worked as a police officer.
He delivered a moving speech in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death that quickly went viral and, last week, he announced his partnership with Bounce TV founder Ryan Glover and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young to launch the new Black-run banking platform Greenwood.
The new digital bank will offer FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts and focus its lending business on financing for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs.
Fellow activist and friend Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, co-founder of Racial Justice NOW!, said the formation of Greenwood is just “the latest example” of why Killer Mike deserves the new Billboard award.
Killer Mike won’t show up in person at Wednesday’s awards ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, he’ll receive the honor from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the African American Panoramic Experience Museum in Atlanta.
It was just days after Floyd’s death that he appeared with Mayor Bottoms and fellow Atlanta rapper T.I. as he delivered the gut-wrenching speech that became a defining moment of the widespread protests that erupted.
“I watched a white officer assassinate a black man. And I know that it tore your heart out, and I know that it’s crippling,” he said of Floyd’s death at the hands of white ex-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.
He said he woke up “mad as hell” and “wanting to see the world burn,” but he urged demonstrators to preserve their own neighborhoods.
“We have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta, what else we got? We lose an ability to plot, to plan, to strategize, to organize and to properly mobilize,” he said.
Killer Mike will receive his award on George Floyd’s birthday.
The ceremony will also include performances by Alicia Keys, Bad Bunny, BTS, Sia, Doja Cat, En Vogue, Khalid, Swae Lee, Demi Lovato and Post Malone.