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2015 EBONY POWER 100 Art of War

EBONY POWER 100 Art of War Recognized People in the world of entertainment whose artistic expression (or conscious action) made a major 2015 statement in the name of Black uplift.

1. JANELLE MONÀE

JANELLE MONÀE
RECORDING ARTIST / ACTRESS
It’s one thing to sing and dance for the entertainment of the people; another to insist on justice for them. In August 2015, Janelle Monàe tapped into the heritage of protest songs when she released “Hell You Talmbout,” an anthem against the disregard for African-American lives. The single features the singer and her label mates chanting the names of Black victims of police brutality and vigilante killings.

2. JESSE WILLIAMS

JESSE WILLIAMS

ACTOR / MODEL / ACTIVIST
A beautiful man with a beautiful mind, Jesse Williams is using his platform as his megaphone, articulating the anger of Black people tired of suffering in silence. The Grey’s Anatomy star made headlines for a 24-tweet series about police brutality and White privilege following the death of Sandra Bland, but he does more than you see on social media, bringing his passion into on-the-ground work with organizations such as the Advancement Project and Sankofa.


3. JOHN LEGEND

JOHN LEGEND

SINGER / SONGWRITER / ACTOR
A genius who makes the most romantic of love songs, John Legend is gaining a reputation for being just as passionate about his activism. Legend funded food trucks to feed New York protesters who were demanding justice for Eric Garner. He also spent much of last year visiting prisons and forcing dialogue about criminal justice reform as part of his #freeamerica campaign. Even when he and Common won the Oscar for their song, “Glory,” Legend used his acceptance speech to denounce mass incarceration.


4. KENDRICK LAMAR

KENDRICK LAMAR
RECORDING ARTIST

The Compton rapper has proven that three is a magic number. In February, Lamar won two Grammys for “i,” the lead single of his third album. A month later, To Pimp a Butterfly debuted in the top spot on Billboard charts. However, the biggest honor to befell Lamar may be how the chorus of his song “Alright” became a chant for Black Lives Matter protestors.


5. PRINCE

PRINCE

SINGER / SONGWRITER / ACTOR
Prince floated onto the stage at the 2015 Grammys in the flyest tangerine jumpsuit ever, rocking his Afro and wielding a scepter. During the show-stealing moment, he declared, “Like books and Black lives, albums still matter,” and the universe collectively squealed with delight. Later, amid unrest following the death of Freddie Gray, The Purple One and his band, 3RDEYEGIRL, traveled to Baltimore for a special tribute concert and recorded a track in honor of those who have died as a result of racial profiling.


6. STANLEY NELSON

STANLEY NELSON
DIRECTOR / PRODUCER

He’s a MacArthur Genius Fellow who received a National Humanities Medal from President Obama. Yet for Stanley Nelson, who has spent more than two decades directing and producing documentaries that explore the rich histories of African-Americans, his biggest honor may be providing technical education and professional support to emerging documentarians through his nonprofit Firelight Media. The filmmaker has three more docs on deck: a feature-length film about the Black Panther Party, one on HBCUs and another civil rights stalwart John Lewis.


7. D'ANGELO
D'ANGELO


SINGER / SONGWRITER
Fueled by the upheaval in Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, following the death of Michael Brown, the artist FKA Michael Archer pushed up the release date of his third album, Black Messiah, dazzling critics and fans. In 2015, he and his masterfully-assembled band, The Vanguard, gave listeners—new and loyal—a chance to rock out to his hypnotic brand of funk-and-R&B tonic via the highly successful Second Coming world tour.


8. J. COLE
J. COLE


HIP HOP RECORDING ARTIST / SONGWRITER / RECORD PRODUCER
Continuing the victory lap that followed the release of 2014 Forest Hill Drive–the rapper’s third consecutive No. 1 disc—Cole continues to use his platform for good. One of a handful of artists to address the police brutality movement, most notably via the song “Be Free,” he’s also using his platform to help those in need. He announced that he intends to turn his childhood home into a rent-free residency for single mothers, rotating families every two years.

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