The First-Ever Winner Of The Billboard Change Maker Award Revealed

In March 2020, the White House declared COVID-19 a national emergency, with the pandemic disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority groups. On the same day of the declaration, a Black woman named Breonna Taylor was shot and killed when police forcibly entered her apartment using a "no-knock" warrant. This was followed by the equally senseless killing of a Black man named George Floyd at the knee of a White police officer in May, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement with multiple-day protests and marches across the country. Then in September, the President of the United States called on the White supremacist group the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," essentially rendering this election an undeniable turning point in American history (via Time).

Given all of that, the year 2020 appears to be a fitting one for the Billboard Music Awards to unveil its first-ever Change Maker Award — and we can't think of a better representative from the music industry to recognize with this honor than Killer Mike of the multiracial hip-hop duo Run the Jewels (via Billboard).

This is how Killer Mike is inspiring change

"This award highlights and recognizes the attributes of a true social justice warrior in the field of music who has made exemplary strides to lead the community in positive changemaking advocacy," says Datwon Thomas, the consulting producer for the Billboard Music Awards. He adds, "we selected Killer Mike for his contributions to the current movement and culture and his tangible efforts to make national and grassroots change."

For those unfamiliar with Killer Mike's music, he frequently references issues of social justice, such as systemic racism and police brutality. Then there's his viral speech from May, where he exhorted protesters to "plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize" (via Vox). If that's not all, Trigger Warning with Killer Mike on Netflix should be required viewing. The six-episode documentary series features the rapper embarking on social experiments that touch upon the complexities of being Black in America, from the obstacles faced by Black business owners to confronting the myth of White Jesus (via GQ). Each episode runs less than 30 minutes and manages to walk the fine line between educational and entertaining. Says rapper El-P, Killer Mike's partner in Run the Jewels, "I think that Mike deserves for people to understand how complicated he is and how much depth he has." We couldn't agree more.