Shayaa “21 Savage” Bin Abraham-Joseph is a man of few words. In and out the booth, the “Bank Account” artist likes to let his actions speak for him. It’s why on a scorching hot Sunday (Aug. 5), the 25-year-old preferred to play the background as his “Issa Back 2 School Drive” returned to his childhood streets for its third consecutive year.
“This is my hood,” he said as children, parents and volunteers gathered at the entrance of 285 East’s Flea Market Plaza, to gain entry to the drive. This time around, the Atlanta native partnered with Spotify, City National Bank and the Leading by Example Foundation. Shoe Carnival also extended a hand to provide new shoes alongside the free food, drinks, and school supplies.
“I went to school in Dekalb and Gwinnett County. This is important since we didn’t have this as kids,” he added.
Executing an event of this magnitude took a great deal of manpower. However, the parking lot wasn’t collecting tumbleweeds as more volunteers appeared ready and willing to lend a helping hand. Meezy, the rapper’s manager, shared the same sentiments about breaking the wealth gap by removing one less worry for parents this school year.
“It takes being from here to understand what is needed,” he said. “This is Dekalb County, I grew up here and I want to make sure these kids have nothing to worry about.”
The genuine compassion and concern for families are the main ingredients for the successful back to school drive. “We hope that people get inspired. Everybody can feel like money,” he added. “This takes the stress off of a parent that just had to pay their rent.”
Atlanta ally DJ Holiday was also in attendance with his two children, ages 3 and 1. His reason for attending was similar to both Meezy and 21 Savage. “I came to support 21. He always supported me. We are both from the east side. For 21 to do this for the community is huge. We grew up on these streets,” Holiday said.
"This is important since we didn’t have this as kids" -21 Savage
Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta cast member Jhonni Blaze two-stepped with the children on stage along with Ms. Atlanta USA. Zip-K, who writes and produces for G.O.O.D. Music's Cyhi Da Prynce, also made his rounds as a fellow Atlanta native and a graduate of Georgia State University.
Though the sun was relentless and just about everyone is covered in perspiration, the charitable giving and good old-fashioned fun continued. Radio station representatives like iHeart Radio and Streetz 94.5 broadcasted live to encourage the people of Atlanta to bring their families to Glenwood Road while giving a play-by-play of the drive’s every activity.
Attendee and proud father Robert Eskew is accompanied by his twin daughters, Hannah and Elizabeth. The girls rocked matching french braids and “Free Ralo” shirts, in support of the incarcerated Atlanta rapper. They share the same enthusiasm as their father whose fresh introduction to Atlanta is that much sweeter with 21’s school drive.
“I moved to Atlanta three months ago and I love the city,” Eskew, who is also a close friend of Ralo’s said. “I love the community. That’s why I am here and brought my daughters here.”
The drive doesn’t appear to be a gimmick or agenda for 21 Savage. The setting, paired with smiles from children with their new bookbags and hairstyles, is a gentle reminder of the how the new generation of hip-hop are using their platforms for good, no clout chasing needed.
Find out more about the Leading by Example Foundation here.
Lorelle Oliveira is a public relations strategist with a formal background in writing and music. Since 2013, she has done work for shows like The Grammys, BET Awards, Soul Train Awards and Hip Hop Honors. Follow her @justtlo.