21 Savage: Atlanta rapper really from UK, say US immigration

21 Savage: Atlanta rapper really from UK, say US immigration


21 savage performs January 2019Image copyright
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Atlanta rapper 21 Savage has been arrested by immigration officials who say he is actually from the UK, reports say.

The rapper, Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, came to the US in July 2005 aged 12 and failed to leave when his visa expired a year later, officials said.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman said he was being held for removal proceedings.

He has previously described a childhood in Atlanta during interviews.

In an interview with Fader magazine in 2016 he said he first saw a gun aged eight – although the article did not specify where this incident took place.

He is also quoted in the interview as saying he was expelled from school in Atlanta aged about 12 or 13 for taking a gun to class.

A CNN reporter quoted an ICE spokesman as saying: “His whole public persona is false”.

Other reports quoted ICE as saying that the rapper was being held in the state of Georgia for being unlawfully present in the US and for being a felon. He was convicted of drugs charges in 2014.

Officials were waiting for a judge’s ruling before deciding how to proceed, a spokesman said.

Atlanta shocked by arrest

Analysis by Kameron Virk, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat reporter in Atlanta

21 Savage is at the peak of his career. He’s just released a hugely popular album that’s been praised for its introspection, storytelling, and maturity.

Atlanta is arguably the centre of hip-hop in the US, and by extension the world. He’s considered one of the city’s greatest – and Atlanta through and through.

The rapper is known in the city as a person who frequently donates to charitable causes – and he launched his own campaign promoting financial literacy in children on the Ellen show.

His raps have mostly painted pictures of a violent upbringing in Atlanta surrounded by drugs and guns – something which up until now nobody had questioned.

But his arrest by ICE and links to the UK have definitely left people in the city confused.

US website TMZ quoted his lawyer Dina LaPolt as saying she was trying to get the rapper out of detention “while we work with authorities to clear up any misunderstanding”.

“Mr Abraham-Joseph is a role model to the young people in the country – especially in Atlanta, Georgia and is actively working in the community leading programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy,” she added.

In December the rapper released his second album, I am > I was, which went to the top of the Billboard 200 albums charts.

The same month he apologised for a lyric in one of his songs that mentioned “Jewish money”.

It followed a similar apology by NBA star LeBron James, who had shared 21 Savage’s lyric on his Instagram account, where critics drew attention to it.

LeBron James said he thought it had been a compliment.

21 Savage said he was “sorry if I offended everybody”.


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