21 Savage made international news after being arrested and detained by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement back in February. Now the Atlanta-area rapper is opening up about how the incident affected him.
“The worst thing was sitting in there not knowing what was going to happen, or when it’s going to happen,” the tattoo-faced lyricist told Billboard in a new interview. “Whenever I went to jail before, it was, ‘You’re being charged with this and going to court on this date.’ But immigration ain’t like that. You’re just being held.”
Savage, born Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested during a targeted operation with federal and local law enforcement partners on February 3. According to ICE, the rapper legally entered the U.S. in July of 2005 under a non-immigrant visa, but “failed to depart” the country when the visa expired in July 2006. ICE said he was already in violation of federal immigration law when in 2014 he was convicted of felony drug charges in Georgia.
As for “A Lot,” the track, which was believed to have triggered his arrest and detention, 21 Savage described it as having a deeper purpose.
A verse in the politically-charged song points to current events such as the Flint water crisis, and the Trump Administration’s much-criticized border control policies.
“People will be going through a lot of stuff, but you’ll never know what they’re hiding behind their smiles,” he commented. “Like, nobody would ever know that I wasn’t born here.”
The 26-year old rapper was released on $100,000 bond the following week after his detention.
His arrest exposed his nationality and the Internet lampooned the fact that the gangsta rapper was not born in Atlanta, but indeed born in the United Kingdom.
Despite his lineage or his drug dealing past, Savage is considered a local hero in the Atlanta area. Last year, he provided free school supplies to 2500 students in DeKalb County, Georgia.
21 Savage was nominated for two Grammys and has collaborated with J. Cole, Migos and with Post Malone, among others. In December, his album I Am > I Was debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.