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

February 4, 2019 Entertainment

Atlanta rapper 21 Savage has been arrested by US immigration officials who say he is actually from the UK.

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.

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In an interview with Fader magazine in 2016 he said he had first seen a gun at the age of eight – although the article did not specify where this incident had taken place.

The 26-year-old 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.

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

Other reports quoted ICE as saying 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.

The UK’s Foreign Office told BBC News: “Our staffs is in contact with the lawyer of a British man following his detention in the USA.”

Confusion in Atlanta

By Kameron Virk, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat reporter in Atlanta

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

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. 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 has 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 programmes to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy,” she added.

A fan in Atlanta told the BBC he was treating the details of Savage 21’s case with scepticism: “I find that very hard to believe that he moved from England on his own to Atlanta.”

“He’s an icon for here,” said another fan in the state of Georgia’s capital. “He’s making great music. We’re losing someone big.”

How many people overstay visas in the US?

There are 10.6 million undocumented immigrants in the US, according to the Center for Migration Studies. That represents 3.25% of the US population.

Although President Donald Trump has blamed the southern border for illegal immigration, most actually arises because people overstay their visas (tourist or other temporary permits).

More than 700,000 people who entered the US legally overstayed their expect departure date in 2018, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

In the same year, some 396,000 people were held in immigration detention, and some 256,000 people were deported by authorities.

Rapper in hot water for lyric

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 rapper, who has collaborated with the likes of Cardi B, Drake and Offset has enjoyed more success in the US than the UK, but is probably best known for the song Rockstar, in which he features with Post Malone.

The song reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Top 40 and has been streamed on Spotify more than 1.4 billion times.

It is also currently nominated for record of the year and best rap/sung performance at the Grammy Awards.

His latest album peaked at 33 in the UK, whilst his only other UK Top 40 hit is with Cardi B, for the song Bartier Cardi.