- NBC/Andrew Lipovsky via Getty Images
- The rapper 21 Savage has weighed in on the memes mocking his British nationality, and told The New York Times he thought some of them were funny.
- Twitter users cracked jokes using popular stereotypes about England after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested and flagged the rapper for deportation.
- 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham Joseph, is actually a citizen of the United Kingdom, and ICE alleged he overstayed a US visa that expired in July 2006.
- Though some were offended that the memes that made light of a serious issue, Abraham-Joseph said he’s been through worse. “I been shot – what is a meme? A meme is nothing,” he said.
21 Savage said he’s seen the memes poking fun at his British nationality – and he’s not offended by them.
“Some of them was funny – I ain’t gonna lie,” he told The New York Times in an interview.
The rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on February 3 and placed in deportation proceedings. ICE said Abraham-Joseph was actually a citizen of the United Kingdom, and alleged that he overstayed a US visa that expired in July 2006.
News of Abraham-Joseph’s arrest jolted his fan base and much of the music industry, as most people had assumed the popular rapper was born and raised in Atlanta, the city that features prominently in his lyrics.
The initial response to news of his arrest was largely ridicule. Twitter users cracked jokes linking Abraham-Joseph with common English stereotypes, and questioned why he didn’t have an accent.
21 savage: Oi guv’nor so ye finaully found owt me secret eh? pic.twitter.com/MUK2sEjg3P
— boolshet (@AnnoeKD) February 3, 2019
21 Savage when he says he’s in the booth pic.twitter.com/tEDsSZ4TLJ
— Aiden (@Aiden1_) February 3, 2019
21 savage: but mum i want to be a rapper
his mom: ur not bloody skipping school again i swear to god if u don’t sit down and eat that fucking crumpet
— cory (@_coryrichardson) February 3, 2019
21 savage: pic.twitter.com/4F5sQsfvr7
— Cris ???? (@criss_349) February 4, 2019
— BigDaddyShaggy (@itsnotmasonh) February 4, 2019
Ice Agent: Do you have citizenship paperwork to be in the US ?
21 Savage: pic.twitter.com/KDrw3Gh2J3
— ????️IG Teej (@mrgoodbeard__) February 3, 2019
jk rowling: 21 savage was a student at hogwarts
— ???????????????????????????? (@notlipglosse) February 3, 2019
Before long, the memes themselves were being criticized for insensitivity. Immigration advocates urged people to understand that Abraham-Joseph’s arrest was a serious issue, and indicative of broader trends in how the Trump administration treats unauthorized immigrants.
Abraham-Joseph was released from detention on bond on February 13, and his lawyers have said he applied for a U visa in 2017 that could secure his legal status in the US.
‘[I’ve] been through way worse things in my life than somebody putting me on a meme’
- Prince Williams/Wireimage
Abraham-Joseph told The Times he understood why some people were offended by the memes, but he could easily ignore them. Other, larger issues were more important, he said.
“Some people, I see why they was mad. It ain’t about the meme, it’s about the bigger picture,” he told the newspaper. “But I done been through way worse things in my life than somebody putting me on a meme. I been shot – what is a meme? A meme is nothing.”
He continued: “I look at bullet scars every day, so it’s like – a meme, bro?”
Abraham-Joseph also revealed to The Times that he’d once had a British accent, and he was mocked for it on his first day of school in America.
“They was making fun of me so I beat somebody up, and they was calling me ‘taekwondo kid,'” he said. “My mama whupped me, she made me stay in the house. So I know I had a accent, but I been here 20 years – I don’t know what happened to it.”
He added that while he wasn’t keen to immediately start putting his experiences with ICE into music, he felt obligated to speak up about immigration issues on behalf of those who couldn’t.
“My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he said. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.”
- Read more:
- 21 Savage claims he was ‘definitely targeted’ by ICE agents in his first interview since he was released on bond
- 21 Savage’s lawyers say he was granted release on bond following his ICE arrest for allegedly overstaying his visa
- Demi Lovato deactivated her Twitter after facing backlash over comments about rapper 21 Savage being taken into ICE custody
- Jay-Z hired a lawyer for 21 Savage to help him fight deportation after he was arrested by ICE