by Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff
February 3, 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of the arrest of popular rapper 21 Savage by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The charges against the Atlanta rapper accused him of overstaying his visa, and alleged that he is originally a United Kingdom national without United States citizenship, making him illegally present in the country. His trial has yet to begin, and he is waiting somewhere on a long list of backlogged immigration cases.
The punishment facing 21 Savage, born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, includes potential deportation as well as a total 10-year ban from entering the United States. Since he is currently awaiting trial, he cannot leave the United States. That has not stopped him from moving forward with his already illustrious career in the music industry, however.
Just last May, 21 Savage announced a tour across North America with rapper DaBaby opening for him. This kept 21 Savage on the road for the majority of the summer. Since then, he has been going about his life like he normally would. On Jan. 26, 21 Savage and J. Cole won Best Rap Song at the Grammy’s for their song “A Lot” off of his most recent album, I Am > I Was.
While the charges state that 21 Savage is a citizen of the United Kingdom and not the United States, many of his supporters argue that his time in Atlanta has solidified him as one of the community’s main figures.
Last year, 21 Savage partnered with Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson to expand the “Bank Account” program for youth in Atlanta. The program is essentially a way to increase the financial literacy of the youth population in the area. According to Rolling Stone, the duo partnered with nonprofits like Get Schooled to implement the financial literacy program.
Because of 21 Savage’s massive impact on the Atlanta metropolitan area, many of his supporters are claiming that removing the rapper from the United States would hurt the communities he has helped. Their argument is that removing him from the country would cancel any future plans he had to improve and unite the communities within the city of Atlanta. The fact that he is still touring and moving on with his career shows that he believes he belongs in the United States. With his trial still waiting in the Federal Immigration backlog, there does not seem to be a clear ending in sight for the rapper’s case.
The most unique part about 21 Savage’s case is that it is proof for the entire country that fame does not always protect against difficult circumstances. Other artists, such as Jay-Z, Offset, and Cardi B, have all expressed their support and opinions on the matter. Even with the help of some relatively powerful friends, the Atlanta rapper’s case got moved into a backlog even though it was classified as an expedited case to get an earlier hearing. It seems that the issue is that ICE may not be giving the rapper a fair trial and may be using him as a precedent for their future prosecutions. For now, however, all 21 Savage can do is await his trial.