WASHINGTON, D.C. — It's been a long journey to success for 2 Chainz, who labored for years as Tity Boi before changing his name and hitting it big with his album Based on a T.R.U. Story and singles like "Birthday Song" and "I'm Different." But on Sunday night, backstage at the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball, he was talking about another lengthy journey: from felon to registered voter.
"I've been a felon since I was 15 years old, and I found out you could reinstate your votership," he told MTV News. "So ... I wanted to use my platform [to] go notify [other] felons about what they can do to get their voices heard, and go out and talk about voter suppression."
And he did just that. Working with the Hip Hop Caucus' "Respect My Vote" campaign, 2 Chainz worked hard to raise awareness about felon disenfranchisement, and how, in certain states, it can be overcome. And on Sunday night (January 20), he was honored for that work, receiving the Hip Hop Action Network's Street Soldier Award.
"I appreciate everybody for allowing me to come into their communities and say my one or two words," he told our cameras minutes before being presented with the award, "and now we're here and I'm getting honored for that, and that's cool."
Before an audience that included the likes of John Legend, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys and Meek Mill, 2 Chainz stepped onstage at Washington's Harman Center to accept the award from the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., activist and president of the Hip Hop Caucus. And though he's risen to fame with his brash hits, in his acceptance speech, 2 Chainz was anything but — in fact, he was downright humbled, and let it be known that just because the election may be over, his work is just beginning.
"It's been an amazing ride for me having a #1 album, #1 hits and all that, but I'm excited about being honored for something I did outside of music," 2 Chainz said. "I feel like us, as black men, we have a responsibility, to raise strong men, to nurture our daughters. ... I'd like to thank [the Hip Hop Summit Action Network's] Russell Simmons and Dr. Ben Chavis, and I pledge to be an active member of the community as long as [they] have."
MTV News is on the ground in D.C. for Inauguration Weekend bringing you the latest from the presidential events, performances and parties right through the official swearing-in today. And although the election's over, you can still get involved by heading over to serve.mtv.com.