Becoming a well-known hip-hop rapper involves displaying creative genius and talent on the stage and in recording studios. Unfortunately for some young aspiring hip-hop artists, unjust confrontations with law enforcement appear to be inevitable. This is currently the case with the Grammy-nominated rapper professionally known as 21 Savage.
Based now in Atlanta, Georgia, 21 Savage was born in London in the United Kingdom on October 22, 1992. The 26-year-old talented rapper’s name at birth was Sheyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. He immigrated legally to the United States as a minor back in 2005 with his family.
Although 21 Savage has lived in the U.S. for the past 14 years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is attempting to expedite his deportation back to the United Kingdom. Savage was detained but was able to post bail from ICE last week.
Yet, in the aftermath of being released from ICE detention and appearing in a taped television show interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, police officials in Southern Georgia’s Liberty County re-arrested 21 Savage and charged him with ‘felony theft’ because he did not perform at a paid gig in Georgia three years ago.
The fact of the matter is that 21 Savage actually turned himself into the Liberty County Sherriff’s office and was immediately released on another bail posting. According to one of his attorneys, Abby Taylor: “This is really a civil contract dispute. We are optimistic that it will be resolved to the satisfaction of all of the parties and dismissed.”
From the perspective of millions of Black American millennials across the nation, the unjust ordeals that 21 Savage is facing are all symptomatic and representative of racism in the U.S. immigration system combined with long-standing cultural and racial profiling of hip-hop artists by the so-called criminal justice system.
The constant run-ins that Tupac Shakur and DMX and many other hip-hop artists have had with the police are on point and relevant to what 21 Savage is now enduring. Some news reports have revealed that ICE officials were trying to intimidate and force 21 Savage to give up his fight to remain in the U.S. Immigration procedures could possibly lead to both his unjust deportation and a 10-year ban from reentering the country.
But it is good to witness that 21 Savage is keeping his faith strong, hiring good experienced defense lawyers, and that there is a growing vocal and visible support for him now coming from hip-hop icons like Jay Z, Diddy and Meek Mills.
Attorney Charles Kuck, one of the other lawyers representing 21 Savage, stated, “[21 Savage] never hid his immigration status.” Attorney Kuck also said that he has a pending visa application that could permit him to remain in the U.S. 21 Savage also has two U.S. born children whom he supports, which could make him eligible to stay here and to continue his growing career as a gifted artist and musician.
“In fact, his contributions to local communities and schools that he grew up in are the examples of the type of immigrant we want in America,” said Kuck.
When the New York Times recently asked 21 Savage if he felt a responsibility to speak up about his circumstances. He responded in a classic 21 Savage manner spitting truth to power: “Yeah, I feel a responsibility. My situation is important ’cause I represent poor Black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans. You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.”
Thus, 21 Savage speaks for all of us across the nation who are young and fed up with the mass incarcerations, intimidations, and racial oppression. His voice is our voice. Hip-hop is not going anywhere. We embrace the courage and the creative genius of 21 Savage today and into the future.
(Malika Elmengad and Franklin Chavis are co-founders of Black Millennial Voices, a national and global advocacy group of millennials who are now writing and reporting for the NNPA: The Black Press of America. They can be reached at .)