Houston-based rapper Trae tha Truth accepted the second-ever Change Maker Award at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, as he was recognized for his philanthropic work and social justice advocacy.
The honor was presented by Tina Knowles Lawson, who praised Trae as “a modern-day superhero.”
“Trae tha Truth is a legend in Houston, with a heart as big as Texas. He’s a talented rapper, a voice for social change, and a true humanitarian, whose work touches cities across the country. His name is so fitting, because Trae really is the truth.”
In a video showing Trae’s accomplishments, the rapper received praise from Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, as well as celebs like Bun B, Dave Chappelle, and Nipsey Hussle’s sister, Samantha Smith.
here to present the 2021 #BBMAs Change Maker Award, it's Tina Knowles-Lawson !! ? pic.twitter.com/SsECiON0yg
“Another day, another blessing,” Trae began his speech, thanking “the man up above” as well as his family, his team, his organizational partners, as well as Billboard for “taking the time to shed a light on me right now.”
“Coming from where I come from, nothing was ever promised,” he shared. “I always said, if I ever got in a position, I’d be there for those in need, whether it be assisting the little homies in music, whether it be assisting people in need of relief, or just fighting on the front line for those who can’t fight for theyself.”
“It’s important to change people’s lives,” he continued, explaining why the award was meaningful to him. “It’s important to change the thoughts of those who give up at times. And it’s important to change things that weren’t designed for our best interests… It’s time for us to change the narrative and control our own story right about now. If you know me, you know I never back down. And most importantly, never give up.”
And of course, he finished his speech with a powerful message straight to camera: “Daniel Cameron, we still gonna need justice for Breonna Taylor.”
The Change Maker Award honors an artist or group that speaks truth to power through their music, celebrity and community. Trae is the second-ever recipient of the honor, after Killer Mike of hip-hop duo Run the Jewels received the inaugural accolade at the 2020 BBMAs.
“Trae exemplifies what it means to be the change you want to see,” Datwon Thomas, BBMAs consulting producer and Vibe editor-in-chief, said in a statement to Billboard earlier this month. “He is always in a city near you, helping those in need after natural disasters, fighting for justice after tragic events and giving supplies to families to make it to another day. His name ‘Tha Truth’ fits perfectly with who he is as a community activist and we are honored to celebrate his tireless efforts and giving spirit.”
The 40-year-old rapper has made headlines in recent years for his work in disaster relief and social justice activism, in his hometown of Houston, Texas, and beyond. After Hurricane Harvey devastated southeastern Texas and Louisiana in 2017, he founded The Relief Gang, a nonprofit providing disaster relief to families in need. In fact, July 22 is officially “Trae Day” in Houston, honoring the work Trae has done for his community.
But that’s not the only place Trae is making his voice heard. After his friend George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin, Trae traveled to Minneapolis to support Floyd’s family throughout the trial. And last July, he and fellow rapper Cordae were arrested in Louisville, Kentucky after protesting outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor after she was killed by police.
“I don’t look to take the title of an activist. I just look to be Trae. That’s just me,” the rapper and activist told Billboard in an interview about his Change Maker honors. “I’m the type of person that don’t stop. I can go for years at a time nonstop. And a lot of people feel like it can wear me down and take me out. But I feel like I’m built for it, because I’m so used to it.”
“So when everybody else is tapped out or stressed, it’s normal to me because I have become that rock. I just don’t know how to tap out. And maybe that’s why it shocks a lot of people because they look, like, ‘Hey, you was just here today. Now you somewhere else tomorrow.’ It’s not in me to stop. I just do what I do.”
The 2021 Billboard Music Awards air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 23 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC. See more from this year’s awards below.
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