Atlanta-based artist 21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Atlanta this morning (February 3), according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While Savage has been closely associated with Atlanta and its dominant music scene, it appears he is actually a citizen of the United Kingdom who entered the United States lawfully in 2005 on a visa that expired in 2006. Since that time, Abraham-Joseph has been in the country illegally.
ICE spokesman Brian Cox told the Atlanta Journal Constitution “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested unlawfully present United Kingdom national Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph AKA ’21 Savage’ during a targeted operation with federal and local law enforcement partners early Sunday in metro Atlanta. Mr. Abraham-Joseph was taken into ICE custody as he is unlawfully present in the U.S. and also a convicted felon.” In response, Savage’s attorney, Dina LaPolt, said, in a statement, “We are working diligently to get Mr. Abraham-Joseph 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 programs to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy.”
Savage’s arrest comes at a time when he is riding a wave of success. His December 2018 album, I Am > I Was, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was a testament to his continued efforts to move away from the lifestyle that garnered him a felony drug conviction in 2014. Last week, he released a well-received video for his collaboration with J. Cole from the album, titled “A Lot.”
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The arrest is the second legal action in 3 days to rock the Hip-Hop world. On Friday, court documents were unsealed that revealed Tekashi 6ix9ine had pled guilty to charges ranging from racketeering and conspiracy to possession of a deadly weapon, to selling a kilogram of heroin. The same documents also disclosed that 69 was cooperating with federal authorities in their ongoing investigation of his associates.
21 Savage would not be the first high profile rapper of UK descent to face deportation. Slick Rick endured a decades-long battle with the Immigration and Naturalization Services over his residency in the U.S., after pleading guilty to two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons charges related to an incident where he shot his cousin and an innocent bystander. In 2006, after nearly 15 years of court proceedings, Rick was granted a full and unconditional pardon on the attempted murder charges by New York Governor David Paterson. In April of 2016, The Ruler was granted U.S. Citizenship.
Time will tell how these matters develop for 21 Savage.