Most entertainers shirk social responsibility until they have struck commercial gold and attained stardom. In general, it is only then that they suddenly claim to be steadfast supporters of children in Africa or staunch opponents of animal abuse.
Up-and-coming rapper, Pepper Boy, defies this trend. Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Pepper Boy is the definition of “real.” With a no-frills lyrical style, he is perhaps best known for the sincerity in his tone and the intensely personal nature of his music.
Although his latest mixtape, “Days of Grace,” has garnered critical acclaim–and though hip-hop heavyweight, Lil B, has recognized his music by rapping over his 2010 song, “Tha Parts”–Pepper Boy has yet to score a major label deal or perform at well-known venues. His relative lack of recognition by the masses, however, has not deterred the young rapper from making his activist voice heard–as both a musician and a philanthropist.
On his mixtape track, “Child Soulja,” Pepper Boy tells the story of a young child fighting in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army through a first person perspective. The track, which features a sped up loop of Cutting Crew’s 1986 hit, “(I Just) Died in Your Arms,” opens with the emotionally rousing lines, “Civil war changed everything … Joseph Kony—that’s the man. As a child, he put a gun in my hand. AK-47, almost tall as me. They burned the whole village; then, they took me.”
Similarly, despite lacking a million-dollar recording contract, Pepper Boy has made much of his music available for download via ReverbNation, through which 50 percent of proceeds for sales of select songs will go toward Keep a Child Alive–a non-profit supporting the welfare of families and children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The organization currently works with individuals in Kenya, India, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa.
Pepper Boy’s openness to releasing unorthodox songs pertaining to international affairs is refreshing. Conversely, his selflessness in relinquishing potential profit in the name of charity is admirable. Few independent artists have taken such great strides in distancing themselves from material culture and raising awareness for the side effects of global poverty.
One can only imagine the impact Pepper Boy could make if he had a greater audience and more resources at his disposal.
– Melrose Huang
Sources: SPIN, Mishka NYC, Reverb Nation, Keep a Child Alive