21 Savage (real name Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph)
October 22, 1992 in Plaistow, London, UK
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2014 – present
approximately $8 million as of 2019
Atlanta rap royalty 21 Savage is a success story straight from the streets. A two-time Grammy nominee, his verses are often based on traumas from his own turbulent past, and it is – in many people’s eyes – this authenticity that allows him to maintain his underground cred, while being a commercially successful artist.
Outside the realm of music, Savage is lauded for his philanthropic work, actively involved in the Atlanta community championing different programs to help underprivileged youth. And he’s become a role model in the process.
Born in Plaistow, London in the UK, Savage moved to Atlanta with his mom aged seven, where he grew up together with 10 siblings. His formative years were riddled with gang violence, crime and juvie-stunts, which culminated in a shooting on his 21st birthday. Savage was shot six times; his best friend was killed. The life-changing moment saw him getting off the streets and seeking refuge in the studio.
His mixtape The Slaughter Tape in 2015 put him firmly on the Atlanta radar. The following year he attracted international recognition teaming up with super producer Metro Boomin for the Savage Mode EP in 2016, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard 200. He also had a guest feature on the Drake single “Sneakin,” and was named as one to watch in XXL’s 2016 Freshman class, alongside Desiigner, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert.
2017 saw the release of his debut album Issa, featuring Future and Cardi B, which climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Before that, though, it was a meme – coined by Savage in an interview when asked what the tattoo on his head symbolizes: “issa knife.” It went viral, permeating our feeds and was quickly added to Urban Dictionary.
An artist in his own right, Savage really shot to prominence for his guest verse on Post Malone’s record-breaking number one single “Rockstar,” which dropped in 2017, stacking up accolades and Grammy nominations.
By end of 2018 he released his sophomore album I Am > I Was, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 (featuring vocals by J. Cole, Lil Baby, Gunna, Childish Gambino, Offset from Migos and Travis Scott amongst others) receiving widespread critical acclaim.
In 2018 Savage announced the launch of the 21 Savage Bank Account Campaign (named after his hit “Bank Account” off Issa), teaming up with the non-profit Get Schooled in order to teach kids how to make and save money. He also donated $21,000 to the cause.
Savage made headlines for several reasons in February 2019. He was gearing up for the Grammys, nominated for two awards, including Record of the Year for Rockstar. Then the news broke of his arrest by the ICE on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, with threats of deportation. It was a double whammy. As the story unravelled it turned out that Savage is in fact a UK-citizen, who overstayed his visa as a child after it expired. Up until this point no one knew the underground Atlanta hero was in fact not born in Atlanta. The internet was in turmoil. Some pointed to the timing of the sudden arrest, shortly after Savage performed track “A Lot” on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, in which he’s criticizing the child separation policy.
Fans took to the streets protesting and a grassroots movement and celebrities alike rallied behind the cause to Free 21 Savage, and some 450,000 Color of Change petition signatures were sent to ICE’s headquarters. Savage was released, his case still pending a hearing.
Released: July 7, 2017
Label: Slaughter Gang, Epic
I Am > I Was
Released: December 21, 2018
Label: Slaughter Gang, Epic
The Slaughter Tape
Released: May 15, 2015
Released: December 1, 2015