21 Savage has long rhymed and talked about his Atlanta upbringing, but ICE says he's British

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 2/4/2019, 11:03 a.m.
Rapper 21 Savage, whose musical persona revolves heavily around the drug and gang life he purportedly weathered coming up on ...
Rapper 21 Savage, whose musical persona revolves heavily around the drug and gang life he purportedly weathered coming up on the east side of Atlanta, is British and in the country illegally, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) -- Rapper 21 Savage, whose musical persona revolves heavily around the drug and gang life he purportedly weathered coming up on the east side of Atlanta, is British and in the country illegally, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement told CNN.

The rapper, whose birth name is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a citizen of the United Kingdom who entered the US legally in July 2005 and failed to depart under the terms of a nonimmigrant visa, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said. His visa expired in July 2006, ICE says.

If his publicly reported birth date is correct, the 26-year-old rhymesmith would have been 12 when he came to the States.

5 things to know about 21 Savage

"Mr. Abraham-Joseph is presently in ICE custody in Georgia and has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts," ICE said in a statement. "ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions."

Added another ICE official, "His whole public persona is false."

Lawyer says 21 'a role model to the young people'

In October 2014, Abraham-Joseph was convicted in Fulton County on counts of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of certain felonies and manufacturing, delivery, distribution and/or possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. The rapper's representatives say the conviction was expunged.

Sunday's arrest, made public hours before the Super Bowl, was the product of a targeted sting, Cox said.

An attorney for Abraham-Joseph said his representatives were working to secure his release.

"We are working diligently to get Mr. Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings," Dina LaPolt said in a statement.

Her client, she said, "is a role model to the young people in this country" and works to help underprivileged youth with financial literacy.

The Grammy-nominated rapper announced his "21 Savage Bank Account" -- named for the hit, "Bank Account," off his debut studio album -- on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" last year and said he was giving 21 kids $1,000 bank accounts.

"It's ironic because growing up in Atlanta, I knew almost nothing about bank accounts," 21 said in a March news release. "Now that I do have money in my bank account, I want to help kids with a background similar to mine to get smart about their money."

It wasn't the only time 21 referenced his Atlanta upbringing, and news of his arrest spawned a parade of Twitter memes, including one stating he wrote his rhymes with a feather quill. Another said when he rapped about having shooters, he wasn't talking about fellow gangbangers, but rather, British redcoats.

He's long claimed to hail from the A

The legend surrounding 21 -- crafted through his seemingly autobiographical lyrics, numerous biographies and interviews with "The Breakfast Club," Interview magazine, Fader magazine and others -- has lent the rapper enormous street cred.