London born and Atlanta raised 21 Savage is considered a rapper at his core with the essence of an R&B singer. His music career has certainly proved this as he mumbles rap music is a new spin on the rap and hip-hop genre, and others differently agree, as he continues to sell out venues and dedicated fans who enthusiastically support him on and off social media.
His ability to turn monotony into art and his melodic flow always kills the charts, especially when teamed up with powerhouse producers such as Metro Boomin, Kid Hazel, and many others who knew how to elevate his tracks.
Of course, at each production’s core, 21 Savage is always the breakout talent on each track he’s featured on
Born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph on October 22 1992 in Plaistow, London, England, 21 Savage was born to British-born parents Heather Carmillia Joseph of Dominican descent and Kevin Cornelius Emmons of Haitian descent, who works for the Westminster City Council. Savage also has twin sisters who, along with his father, still live in London.
By the time 21 Savage was 7 years old, his parents were divorced and he moved with his mother to Atlanta, GA where he would eventually stay and be raised there, thus cementing Atlanta as his true hometown.
However, in June 2005, 12-year-old Savage had to briefly return to London to attend his Uncle’s funeral. The stay was only a month-long and he returned to the US that July. During this time, Savage was on an H-4 Visa which would eventually expire the following year. This pivotal information would ultimately lead to his immigration issues later on in life.
During this time, his mother began a relationship with British transplant and endocrinologist, Dr. Amsu Anpu. Savage’s mom would later have more children with her second marriage which resulted in Savage’s brother, Quantivayus. Tragically, his brother would later be murdered after a drug deal that went south.
In seventh grade, Savage began to experience issues at school and was ultimately permanently banned from every school in the DeKalb County school district due to having been found possessing a gun on school property. Due to this, Savage was placed in schools outside the DeKalb county within the metropolitan area. Eventually, these attempts to enroll him in other schools didn’t work out and he was sent to a youth detention center instead.
After his release from the youth detention center, Savage completed eighth grade via an alternative program before he was able to return to public high school. However, Savage eventually dropped out of school due to having been expelled multiple times and generally being worn out emotionally through the experience.
21 Savage eventually joined a local Bloods affiliated street gang which led him to become a drug dealer, mainly selling marijuana. Savage also was involved with robberies and car theft and was only arrested once after he was found to have illegal contraband in the car he was driving.
In 2011, tragedy would strike again for Savage when he lost his friend and his right-hand man, Larry, in a shootout.
Later on, in 2013 Savage would experience another tragedy when he was shot six times by a rival gang during an attempted robbery on his 21st birthday. Although Savage survived, his best friend was killed during the shootout.
After the deaths of his close friends, 21 Savage decided to quit his criminal activities and put it all behind him and began rapping instead. His music career was starting to look promising until it was derailed momentarily due to his friend’s uncle dying, who was giving him studio time to work on his raps in 2013.
”Picky” and Early Works
21 Savage’s debut track, “Picky”, produced by DJ Plugg, was released in November 2014. This track was later included on the May 2014 release of The Slaughter Tape, Savage’s first mixtape. The drop of the mixtape generated a lot of buzz and made 21 Savage an underground name within the Atlanta community.
Savage then released a collaborative EP, Free Guwop, with Sonny Digital in July 2015, 21 and was an ode to rapper and one of his biggest influences, Gucci Mane. Following The Slaughter Tape release, 21 Savage then dropped his second mixtape, Slaughter King, in December 2015.
By July 2016, 21 Savage released his Metro Boomin produced EP Savage Mode. The EP saw international success when it landed at the number 23 on the Billboard 200, which would become Savage’s highest-charting EP as of August 2020.
Following Savage Mode, the Future featuring single “X” eventually went certified platinum in the US and became 21 Savage’s 1st platinum record. Savage would then announce in January 2017 that he would be signed on at Epic Records.
His freshman debut, Issa Album, dropped that same year and debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200. Issa Album’s lead single, “Bank Account”, would also go on to land on the number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
21 Savage would see his career surge and experience his first number one hit song when he was featured on Post Malone’s single “Rockstar”. The track was a huge success, even charting at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and broke numerous records, especially internationally, such as going 8X platinum in Australia, Diamond in Canada, Brazil, and France as well as going multi-platinum in other countries.
Savage would then continue to collaborate with other big-name rappers and even worked on a collaborative studio album featuring Offset and produced by Metro Boomin, titled Without Warning. The album was released in October 2017 with the number thirteen Billboard 200 charting “Ric Flair Drip” and received widespread positive reviews from critics and fans.
By April, 21 Savage was busy making guest appearances on tracks for Nicki Minaj and Lil Uzi Vert. Later on, he would also make an appearance on SunBabies track “Outstanding” and the BlocBoy JB Simi mixtape single, “Rover 2.0”. During the following months, he also appeared on Tya Dolla $ign’s deluxe edition of Beach House 3, “Clout”.
Savage took to Instagram in October 2018 by posting a cryptic picture that detailed a man-like silhouette jumping in the air in a direction from a large fire. The bottom right corner of the image features the “Parental Advisory” label and has Metro Boomin tagged on the post. Because of this mysterious post, some speculated that this was alluding to a possible follow to Savage’s 2017’s Without Warning. However, this was not the case much to fan’s disappointment as it was eventually revealed to be a promotion for producer Metro Boomin’s debut studio album, Not All Heroes Wear Capes.
I Am > I Was
However, not one to leave his fans disappointed, 21 Savage eventually revealed the cover art for his next album, I Am > I Was, on Instagram. The promotional reveal featured a blurred out image, presumably of Savage, with a caption of goat emojis.
After the release of the promotional art, the next day, 21 Savage took to Twitter and his Instagram story to apologize for forgetting to release the album, saying on Twitter: “Dam I forgot to drop my album my bad y’all.” To rectify this, Savage announced the drop date as December 21, 2018. However, the track-list was leaked on December 13, 2018, by record producer Louis Bell via his Instagram story.
21 Savage then released his sophomore album follow up, I Am > I Was in late December 2018. The album boasted guest performances from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, past collaborator Offset, Travis Scott as well as new and emerging rappers like Gunna and Lil Baby, although none of them received artist credits on the album.
I Am > I Was would debut at number one on the US Billboard 200, which made it 21 Savage’s first U.S number one album of his career so far. The track “A Lot”, featuring vocals from J. Cole was used as the album’s promotional single, which led to the album shooting up to the number 12 spot on the US Billboard 100.
Throughout 2019, 21 Savage “Immortal”, his one and only single for that year. In February 2020, 21 Savage would link up again with Metro Boomin by hinting to fans a future extended sequel release of 2017’s Savage Mode titled Savage Mode II. Although an official release date was not announced when the planning of the sequel was revealed, they increased hype around the project again when they commented with a fan on an Instagram post that the album would be released on March 13, 2019. However, March 13 came and passed with no announcement of a drop and an official release date is still largely unknown.
Labeled “one of the last real street niggas left making music” by frequent collaborator Metro Boomin, 21 Savage’s music is heavily personal with an emphasis on violent and criminal aspects of his past, including his experience with murder and drug dealing. He is also known for having an eerily and sometimes villainous and monotonous tone in his vocals.
21 Savage practices the traditional African religion Ifá, along with his mother. In June 2017, Savage started dating model Amber Rose but as of May 2018, the couple had separated.
In March 2018, 21 Savage announced the creation of the 21 Savage Bank Account Campaign (named after his hit song “Bank Account”) on the daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and also announced that he was donating $21,000 to the cause.
When asked his reason for starting the campaign, 21 Savage said he started the 21 Savage Bank Account Campaign and to help kids learn how to save money and make money, and how to open bank accounts as early as childhood.
In early August 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, 21 Savage hosted the “Issa Back to School Drive” (named after his album Issa Album) in his home neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. The drive gave free haircuts, hairstyles, supplies, and school uniforms.
In July 2018, 21 Savage donated $10,000 to Atlanta’s Continental Colony Elementary School to fund an anti-bullying campaign. In July 2020, 21 Savage announced he was launching a free online financial literacy education program for kids and teenagers stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that he felt like it was important more than ever to give the next generation the tools to succeed in life.
The program includes a partnership with Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to provide free tablets and WiFi to underserved students in Atlanta.
In 2017, it was reported that 21 Savage was working on his debut film, Issa Movie. However, no release date has been mentioned.
21 Savage has also worked on a YouTube animated mini-series named Year 2100.
In February 2019, mere days after releasing the video for “A Lot”, 21 Savage was taken into custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a vehicle was pulled over that contained him and his cousin, the rapper known as Young Nudy, and two other men.
Young Nudy and the two other men had been targeted in an operation involving charges of aggravated assault and violation of the Georgia Gang Act. 21 Savage later alleged that he was personally and also targeted in the operation as a result. After his arrest, ICE proclaimed that 21 Savage is a British national who was visiting the United States against the law since his non-immigrant visa expired in July 2006, when he went to his Uncle’s funeral in London, England.
21 Savage’s management team said he had been trying to get his Visa renewed since 2017. However, before this incident, 21 Savage was thought of as a resident of Atlanta and has even said in a lot of interviews that he was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He also has been quoted in other interviews saying he was from Decatur, Georgia, which is in the metropolitan area of the greater Atlanta area.
A representative for ICE stated that 21 Savage’s entire public persona is not the truth and that he actually came to the U.S. from the U.K. as a teen and never renewed his visa. A birth certificate for 21 Savage showing that he was born in Newham, London, appeared to the public on October 22, 1992. This birth certificate proved that he had been 12 years old in July 2005, and therefore not a teenager as the ICE spokesperson stated.
21 Savage is human like us all, and his music speaks for itself. While his case is still pending, he has the option to travel around the US for now.