Rapper 21 Savage was arrested February 3rd in Atlanta by ICE officials for overstaying his UK visa, which had expired in 2006. 21 Savage, born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, moved to the United States with his mother in 2005 on a nonimmigrant visa and never left. A rap star in the Atlanta community, the discovery of 21 Savage’s true origins left many Atlanta music enthusiasts stunned.
21 Savage began his rise to fame in 2015 with the release of his mixtape “Slaughter King,” which he then followed shortly with his studio debut “Savage Mode.” On these albums, Savage talks about growing up in Atlanta and his rise from the ghettos of Atlanta. The albums were produced by Atlanta producers such as Metro Boomin and Zaytoven. However, these Atlanta roots and influences may be perceived differently after his British citizenship came to light, and many students feel similarly.
“Personally, I loved following his music because it was someone from Atlanta who told stories about their day to day life,” said junior Alex Bradham. “It was so different from my own life yet it was in the same city, but now I feel like I’ve lost that connection.”
Questioning his musical identity appears to be a theme among Westminster students, and some feel as though they lost their already loose connection to his music.
“The only thing that made me listen to his music was the fact that he was from Atlanta and I liked looking for the Atlanta places in his lyrics, but now that I know he isn’t really from Atlanta it will be less exciting to listen to his music,” said freshman Sue Jackson.
In 21 Savage’s songs, he has talked about “Panthersville,” an Atlanta correctional facility, or “Zone 6,” a police zone on the Eastside of Atlanta, and many Atlanta natives felt stronger connections because they could relate to his music and the places they heard in it.
But not all students feel angry or betrayed about 21 Savage’s citizenship; some believe even though he was not born in Atlanta, his life experiences and roots are still all in Atlanta, and he is truly an Atlanta native. Westminster students view 21 Savage’s citizenship as a hot topic issue due to the immigration issues headlining the national media on a daily basis, which helped shaped their opinions about the issue.
“I don’t think it really matters that he is not from Atlanta,” said junior Ayinde Green. “He serves the community a lot, and I believe he should be a citizen now even if he wasn’t before. Social media made it seem like he barely lived in Atlanta when in reality he moved here at age 7.”
21 Savage has had a positive impact on the Atlanta community through actions such as starting the “21 Savage Bank Account Campaign” to teach kids how to save money, hosting an annual back to school drive for supplies, and donating money to anti-bullying campaigns.
However, other people have an opposing view of 21 Savage’s legal status.
“He should be deported because he has been in trouble with the law, and he is not a true citizen, so there is no good reason for him to stay in the United States,” said junior David Dickey.
Savage has had his share of troubles with the law, such as threatening a student with a gun while in high school and a felony drug arrest in 2016, helping support the argument to deport him.
As of late February, 21 Savage has applied for a new visa, which could take years to process, and is out of jail on a $100,000 bond for overstaying his visa. He has 3 young children who were born in the United States. If his application is denied, he can be banned from entering the United States for up to 10 years, while if his application is accepted he can apply for full United States citizenship.