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April 24, 2019

21 Savage barely mentioned during Grammy telecast despite nominations and ICE detention

February 11, 2019
In this Sunday, May 20, 2018, file photo, 21 Savage arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP)

Twice-nominated rapper 21 Savage was barely noted during the Grammy telecast Sunday night – with his only on-air mention coming from a Swedish composer.

His plight to end his high-profile ICE detention was more a presence behind the scenes, with supportive backstage comments from Dua Lipa and a shirt worn by Post Malone.

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The lack of on-stage solidarity upset some of his supporters. They say 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a Dreamer who emigrated from the UK as a child and is being held illegally for possible deportation though he has no standing criminal convictions.

“I really expected more artists to talk about She’yaa tonight. I’m disappointed,” author and activist Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said in a Twitter post.

“The Grammys allowed someone to walk the red carpet dressed as ‘the border wall’ but did not allow activists to bring attention to the fact that a nominee is facing deportation from the place he’s lived since he was a teenager. Absolute trash,” tweeted a former Brooklyn resident under the screen name Problematic Papi.

Savage’s sole mention from the Grammy stage came when “This Is America” producer Ludwig Göransson gave him a shout out during the acceptance speech for “Record of the Year.”

Savage contributed to the winning Childish Gambino song and was also nominated in the category for his collaboration with Post Malone on “Rockstar.”

“We want to thank all the rappers that are featured on the song, 21 Savage, who should be here tonight,” Göransson said.

Göransson repeated the sentiment backstage after the win.

“It takes a big team to make a song like that, and it took us three years to work on (‘This is America’),” he said. “It felt like everyone was there in the room except for 21 Savage. It was very unfortunate,” Göransson said.

Dua Lipa, a fellow Brit, also backed Savage when asked backstage about his detention and possible deportation.

“As for Savage, I think it’s quite upsetting given that he hasn’t done anything and he’s also given so much to, I guess, American culture, even being a Brit,” she said after accepting the award for Best New Artist.

Malone, meanwhile, performed “Rockstar” during the telecast without any reference to Savage. He was photographed backstage wearing the “21 Savage” shirt.

A week ago, Malone posted on his social media the petition to stop Savage’s deportation.

Savage, 26, was arrested in Georgia on Feb. 3 during a traffic stop and handed over to immigration officials for allegedly overstaying a visa that expired in 2006.

Before his detention, he was nominated for two Grammys, including Best Rap/Sung Performance, for “Rockstar.”

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In the run-up to the main Grammy show Sunday, more than a dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Staples Center holding giant letters spelling out, “free 21 Savage.”

Video of the demonstration, posted on the blklivesmatter Instagram feed, logged more than 14,000 views as of Monday morning.

A lawyer for Savage has called the rapper’s detainment a “civil law violation” solely meant to “unnecessarily punish him and try to intimidate him.”

Lawyer Charles H. Kuck released a statement shortly after the arrest saying Savage has no standing criminal convictions, three US citizen children and a lawful permanent resident mother.

“ICE has not charged Mr. Abraham-Joseph with any crime. As a minor, his family overstayed their work visas, and he, like almost two million other children, was left without legal status through no fault of his own,” Kuck said.

“Mr. Abraham-Joseph is not a danger to the community, and in fact, his contributions to local communities and schools that he grew up in are examples of the type of immigrant we want in America,” he said.

The Atlanta-based rapper has a pending U-Visa application, the lawyer said, referring to an application available to crime victims who are cooperating with law enforcement.

Savage applied for the visa in 2017 and made the Department of Homeland Security aware of his history, Kuck said.

“Yet they took no action against him until this past weekend,” Kuck said.

Another lawyer hired by Jay Z later said the drug conviction cited by ICE earlier this month was an arrest for pot possession that was later vacated by a judge due to a legal issue.

Savage’s deportation case is now expected to hinge on how an immigration judge views the “vacated” conviction.

Meanwhile, his family and his team continue to fight for his release.

“He rose above the difficult circumstances of his youth to achieve success and make contributions to our society that rival any of those by a natural born citizen,” Kuck said.

In August, the rapper hosed the third annual “Issa Back 2 School Drive” for needy students in the Atlanta area.

More than 2,500 people attended the event offering free backpacks, shoes, uniforms and school supplies provided by Savage.

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