Rapper Nelly Has Been Secretly Sending Black Kids to College for the Last 15 Years

Plenty of celebrities give back to the communities that helped make them famous in the form of charity donations or foundations that help the less fortunate. These efforts are often ramped up during highly visible moments of crisis, and celebrities could be seen using their platform to raise funds for relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

While, of course, many celebrities are giving out of the kindness of their hearts, they also face pressure from fans who see their wealth and privilege as a responsibility to step up during tough times. This public pressure can mean that many stars make something of a spectacle out of their charitable habits, and often it’s their star power that makes the drives successful in the first place, so it makes sense that the events would be high-profile. 

Still, it can be even more encouraging when stars have been consistently and quietly using their wealth to better the lives of others under the radar. That’s exactly what hip hop star Nelly has been doing for more than a decade. 

Nelly rose to fame in the early 2000’s

Nelly poses during a photo shoot in Sydney, New South Wales to promote his Australian tour.
Nelly | Adam Taylor/Newspix/Getty Images

Nelly busted onto the hip hop scene in 2000 with the single “Country Grammar (Hot . . .).” The hit was catchy but didn’t necessarily suggest staying power, and it wasn’t until Nelly dropped repeated chart toppers like “Ride Wit Me” and “Shake Your Tailfeather” that he started to make national waves.

As All Music reports, the St. Louis native formed the group the St. Lunatics as a teen but quickly grew frustrated that their local appeal didn’t translate into broader attention. The group collectively decided Nelly was the member most likely to succeed in a solo career, and that was where he put his effort, providing the other St. Lunatics a platform on some of his hits as he rose to the top. 

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Nelly’s singles were on fire throughout the early 2000’s, but he was no flash in the pan. The rapper has continued to create music and build collaborations with artists like Pharrell, Nicki Minaj, and T-Pain.

Notably, Nelly has also made several forays into the country music scene with collaborations with Florida Georgia Line and Kane Brown. He’s walked the line between the two genres and insisted they have more in common than people think. 

Nelly was among the stars who responded to Michael Brown’s shooting

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As a St. Louis native, Nelly understood the dynamics at play in the Ferguson police shooting of teenager Michael Brown better than most. In the aftermath of the 2014 shooting that rocked the nation, Nelly was among the many artists who spoke out about the need for change.

As Hello Beautiful reports, Nelly’s approach to making a difference has been a quiet one. He says, “it’s not about the hoo-ha, it’s about the silent assassins,” suggesting that working behind the scenes is more effective than making waves for the camera.

He also has a plan that focuses on education as the pillar for change: “We have to get the kids to go out of these communities. Graduate. Get the knowledge. Come back to the community and then they can run it because they understand the people and understand the severity of the situation.”

Other hip hop stars have praised Nelly’s charitable efforts

Nelly has certainly put his money where his mouth is. He doesn’t just talk about education as a means to change; he puts it into action, and it didn’t start with the Michael Brown tragedy. For years, Nelly has put forward the funds to send two students to college. 

After the Michael Brown shooting, Nelly created a scholarship in the teen’s name, according to the Atlanta Black Star. Nelly’s quiet activism hasn’t been flashy, but it has still caught the eye of others in the industry who see his work as crucial to transformation.

Other hip hop stars, including Snoop Dogg, have signal-boosted Nelly’s work in promoting education and supporting students through scholarships in order to highlight his consistent efforts at making a difference.