Rapper Quavo brings gun violence advocacy to Congress, White House

WASHINGTON — Rapper Quavo, who rose to fame as one-third of hip hop group Migos, is known for delivering playful and vibrant music to dancing fans in stadiums.

But lately, the 32-year-old entertainer has found himself on a very different stage, sharing a message that is full of grief and pain.

Quavo, whose full name is Quavious Keyate Marshall, said Wednesday that he wants his tears after the shooting death of his bandmate and nephew Takeoff to be turned into action. He came to Washington to ask some of the nation’s leaders to join him in his effort to reduce gun violence in America.

“I’m learning from you guys,” he told a packed audience of activists, elected officials and political aides during a panel discussion at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference. “At the same time, I want change. At the same time, I want people to be safe. At the same time, I want my community to be safe. At the same time, I want to be a vessel or an instrument or an inspiration to others.”

Takeoff was killed in November in Houston while attending a private party. Police said he was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire during an argument over a dice game.

Quavo and the third Migos, cousin Offset, who are based in metro Atlanta where they grew up, have each dealt with Takeoff’s death in their own way. Quavo, who was with his nephew that night and saw everything unfold, decided to use his platform as a music superstar to address the leading cause of death for Black males up to age 44: homicide.

In lieu of flowers at the funeral, the family announced the launch of the Rocket Foundation and asked supporters to make donations. The nonprofit has already donated $2 million to partner nonprofits, including the Community Justice Action Fund, which advocates for changes in public policy and trains community members.

“We were really excited that Quavo reached out and his team reached out wanting to not just mourn and grieve but to take action on this issue and find a way to address gun violence as it impacts on black and brown communities specifically,” Greg Jackson, who serves as executive director of Community Justice, said.

Quavo also met privately Wednesday with Vice President Kamala Harris, along with other members of the family including Takeoff’s mother and grandmother.

The panel discussion was hosted by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and also included U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, the Marietta Democrat who also became a gun violence prevention activist after her son was killed 11 years ago.

Earlier in the day, at a private lunch meeting with additional members of Congress, including House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams of Atlanta, Warnock, told a reporter afterward that he was inspired by Quavo’s decision to work through his grief.

“The pain in the room was palpable,” the senator said. “Here was a young person, Quavo, who has lost his nephew, Takeoff, who was 28 years old. Just in a moment when his sun was just starting to rise and his voice was starting to emerge, it was silenced and eclipsed by unnecessary and unspeakable violence. We see that because of his celebrity, but that story which his tragedy magnifies, is multiplied time and time again throughout our country,”

One of Quavo’s main messages to lawmakers was to call for more federal dollars toward violence prevention, lending his support to a bill proposed by Democrats called the Break the Cycle of Violence Act. This legislation would provide $6.5 billion in federal dollars for youth workforce programs and community violence intervention programs across the country.

The U.S. House approved the bill in September 2022, but the congressional session ended in January without a hearing in the Senate. The legislation was reintroduced in July, but action is unlikely with Republicans now in the majority in the House.