Grammy-nominated Atlanta rapper 21 Savage faces deportation

by Kim Boateng Posted on February 4th, 2019

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”.

BREAKING- @ICEgov spokesman tells me @21savage was taken into custody by ICE. “His whole public persona is false. He actually came to the U.S. from the U.K. as a teen and overstayed his visa.” MORE COMING — Nick Valencia (@CNNValencia) February 3, 2019

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.

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 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”.

The Jewish people I know are very wise with there money so that’s why I said we been gettin Jewish money I never thought anyone would take offense I’m sorry if I offended everybody never my intention I love all people— Saint Laurent Don (@21savage) December 25, 2018

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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