The day before the new school year starts in DeKalb County, thousands of families were treated to some free supplies and a visit from a local superstar.
Rapper 21 Savage hosted his fourth annual “Issa Back 2 School Drive” Sunday, drawing a crowd of over 3,000 and continuing his local charitable efforts.
“It’s important to give back, because these same people support me, so I support them,” the rapper, whose real name is Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Under overcast skies on a humid summer afternoon, families waited in line for free backpacks, shoes, clothing, haircuts and more. Abraham-Joseph also handed a $15,000 check to Juma, a nonprofit that employs young people and helps boost financial literacy among young people in Atlanta.
Lines stretched across the shopping center parking lot off Glenwood Road in DeKalb. Abraham-Joseph said he remembers hanging out in the area, going to the club nearby and buying clothes from the 285 Flea Market.
Abraham-Joseph said growing up in Atlanta was an integral part of his life, and he wishes the case with ICE was “fake.”
“I wish these bullet holes go away, too, but it’s where I’m from,” he said. The rapper was shot six times in 2013, and his best friend was killed.
Outside of his wildly successful music career, Abraham-Joseph has made a name for himself because of the Issa Back 2 School drives and other charity work benefiting the community. The drive was named for his debut studio album, "Issa Album." He has worked with Juma before in promoting financial literacy, and recently donated $25,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
At the event Sunday, children ran to play in bounce castles, traverse a rock climbing wall and take part in other fun activities, while rap music blasted across the parking lot. Organizers estimated they gave out 2,300 backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
Then, the star arrived. Wearing a light pink T-shirt and keeping his cool composure, the star known as 21 Savage made his way through the crowd, surrounded by fans of all ages who took pictures and videos of the rapper.
Fans yelled: “21! We love you!” His advice to those young people was, “Don’t give up, and don’t throw your life away. Stay in it, it’ll work out in the end.”
It was Candace Jones’ first time attending one of the rapper’s back-to-school events. But the rising Benjamin Banneker High School junior was well aware of the investment he’s made in the area.
“He does it all the time, it’s exciting,” she said, while the crowd swarmed Abraham-Joseph at a DJ booth. His hit song “A Lot” was playing over the speakers. “I’m like, dang, he’s literally right here.”