This past Friday, Hotel Sax hosted the launch event for The Kanye West Foundation. I was lucky enough to attend the Foundation’s benefit, which was held in the hotel’s Crimson Lounge. A sold-out concert in the nearby House of Blues concert venue followed. The night raised more than $500,000.00 for educational programs such as West’s Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute, an initiative that will assist Chicago Public School teachers in using hip-hop in their curriculum.

Celebrity attendees included David Alan Grier, Mos Def, Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson, Miami Heat Star Dwayne Wade, America’s Top Model Winner Jaslene Gonzalez.

And while the A-Listers came out in full force, so did the corporate community. Microsoft, Wrigley and Ariel Capital were all major sponsors. Attending the event, it is evident that corporate America is embracing urban marketing strategies in a way that wouldn’t have been imagined just a few years ago. Kanye West isn’t just a hip-hop icon, he’s now a pop-culture icon. His appeal transcends those who will benefit from his foundation. But Kudos to him for using his influence to tap into some hefty corporate social responsibility dollars that in turn will be distributed to the Chicago Schools.

David Zapata