On Sunday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a that Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph — better known as Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage — had been detained on charges related to an expired visa.
ICE claimed that 21 came to America from the UK in 2005 and had been living here illegally since 2006.
For many, the news came as a shock, and Twitter erupted in a firestorm of jokes and memes about 21’s secret British origins. However, the arrest and pending deportation reflect darker realities and beg the question: What is ICE trying to accomplish?
21 gained notoriety by rapping about his violence-filled upbringing in the Atlanta streets. Guns, drugs and murder were common themes in his music, and his entire persona was based off those themes.
In reality, none of those things matter. What does matter is 21’s track record over the last several years.
His latest moves include to altogether in the hopes of encouraging young people to invest in businesses and cryptocurrency rather than jewelry. He also to help teens learn about financial literacy and has hosted a back-to-school drive that provides free supplies and haircuts. 21 has moved his actions toward encouraging his young fans — particularly those in neighborhoods similar to the ones he allegedly grew up in — to invest in their futures.
This change was reflected on his most recent album, on which he adopted a much more positive persona. That’s specifically shown on the intro song “a lot,” in which he criticized and analyzed the same lifestyle he is known for rapping about.
What's most suspicious about the timing of the arrest is in a show several days ago 21 released the music video for “a lot” and added a that criticized US immigration policies (among other things). One of the lyrics is “Been through some things, but I couldn’t imagine my kids stuck at the border. / Flint still need water, people was innocent couldn’t get lawyers.”
While it’s entirely possible the arrest is unrelated to this — and 21 is truly from the UK — it doesn’t change the ludicrousness of ICE’s actions.
21 has grown into a role model for American youth, and it’s apparent our government refuses to see a rapper as anything more than a criminal. Having a voice that promotes financial success and excellence for young black men is something many government leaders have no interest in.
Deportation of positive role models and productive citizens based off their countries of origin and race seems more like ethnic cleansing than homeland security. Thousands of average people who have came to America seeking asylum have been returned to unstable homes for no good reason at all.