These photos allegedly show 21 Savage growing up in London
Rappers often feel that they have to create a persona. In fact, Lil Peep's brother explained that the late rapper “mentioned how being a hip hop artist is like being a pro-wrestling character”. However, 21 Savage appears to have taken this idea to unusual extremes.
News broke yesterday of the 26-year-old’s arrest in Atlanta. While it’s not unusual for rappers to have issues with the law, that he was arrested by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was curious. The authorities then announced that 21 Savage, born Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was a UK national who had overstayed his visa.
Nominated for two Grammys for his work on Post Malone's song Rockstar, the rapper may now be deported before he can scoop the awards next week. However, what makes his story all the more interesting is the extent to which he has also lied to his fans.
"We are the real Atlanta, we are really in the street, we are really what the f*** Atlanta has going on," he told XXL in 2015. "Every artist that I got with me is really from the hood and really from Atlanta.” However, his own Atlanta credentials are now looking rather questionable.
Furthermore, Instagram posts have shed light on his childhood. Dr Amsu Anpu, a certified doctor, nutritionist and dietitian, shared images which he claims show 21 Savage growing up in London. VT reached out to Dr Amsu Anpu but, at the time of writing, he has not responded. The photos were posted in 2017 and have, until now, flown under the radar.
In an interview with FADER, the "A Lot" rapper claimed he saw his first gun at the age of eight. In the same interview, journalist Amos Barshad quizzed him on his avoidance of planes. Thought to have arisen from showing ID at an airport and consequently being served an outstanding warrant, the rapper gave a different answer: “I’m scared to fly.”
“Of crashing?” Barshad asked. “Yeah,” he responded. “And getting hijacked.” However, it now seems that 21 Savage’s avoidance of planes may have more likely been an avoidance of airports. More recently, he has flown within the US but on private jets. He has never toured outside of the country.
An ICE spokesperson stated that the rapper is being held for removal proceedings. Meanwhile, a CNN reporter quoted an ICE spokesperson as saying "his whole public persona is false." This is the public person who, in the seventh grade, was expelled from the entire DeKalb County school system for gun possession. He would have been either 12 or 13 when this happened. He arrived in the US as late as July 2005 - when he was already 12 years old.
Meanwhile, a number of celebrities have commented on the situation. Most notably, Demi Lovato waded into the conversation by stating: “So far 21 savage memes have been my favorite part of the Super Bowl.” This drew criticism from fellow artist Offset, from the rap group Migos.
“ALL THE MEMES AND S*** AINT FUNNY WHEN SOMEBODY GOING THROUGH SOME,” he stated. “PRAYING FOR MY DAWG AINT S*** FUNNY HIS FANILY [sic] DEPENDING ON HIM.” However, Migos aren’t strangers to controversy themselves.
When rapper iLoveMakonnen came out as gay, Migos member Quavo allegedly said "this world is not right". Years later, Offset rapped the line “I do not vibe with queers”. Nonetheless, Offset’s tweet started a storm of responses. Many of them were memes aimed at Offset. But others were messages of hate aimed at Lovato, many of which mentioned her issues with drug addiction and her admission to rehab.
“If you’re gonna come at me for making a joke, try coming at me with some original not involving drugs,” she stated, before adding “F*** Twitter. This is why I don’t tweet anymore.” The singer then shut down her Twitter account.
However, while this story is causing a stir among celebrities and mortals alike, it’s not the first time this has happened. In the early 2000s, Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd burst onto the music scene as rap duo Silibil N' Brains. From San Jacinto in California, they stood out in the London music scene and soon signed a record deal with Sony Music UK. Before long, they were making appearances on MTV and supporting D12.
However, the pair was actually from Dundee in Scotland. There were initially dismissed from auditions as "rapping Proclaimers" due to their accents. They therefore decided to use fake, American personas in order to grab labels’ attention and appear more intrinsically grounded in hip hop culture.
As for 21 Savage, he must await his trial before finding out whether he will be allowed to stay in the United States. "Shaayaa moved to America when he was mad young, so he basically is American, he grew up there," his sister Jayda tweeted today. "I'm bare confused as to how they're trying to deport him though... He's been comfortable this whole time. This smells fishy". Meanwhile, adding further weight to the already burgeoning argument that he is not American, the British press has got a hold of his birth certificate and a video his mother speaking with a strong London accent.
His proponents have defended 21 Savage's position, on the basis that he has made significant contributions to both hip hop and American culture. But others remain suspicious and confused as to how someone so authentically Atlantan could actually come from Britain.