He is now being held on 23-hour lockdown, after being picked up while riding in his cousin’s car during a traffic stop.
Last night, however, as stars flocked to the Staples Center, bar one quick onstage shoutout, it was like the week’s biggest story in music never happened.
It might seem hard to recall, but just last weekend, the music world was apparently united in disgust at the way in which 21 Savage was being treated, as a result of having overstayed a visa that expired when he was 14.
The disbelief was particularly acute as 21 was nominated for a Grammy, along with co-star Post Malone, for Record of the Year for “Rockstar.”
His legal representatives even linked his arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to lyrics denouncing the family separations at the Mexican border; in an extended version of his 2018 track “A Lot,” 21 raps: “Went through some things, but I couldn’t imagine my kids stuck at the border/Flint still need water, n---ers was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers.”
As it became clear 21 was likely to miss the Grammy ceremony, in what many interpreted as an act of pure spite by the authorities, some observers dared to hope the Grammys would provide a forum in which to highlight not only the plight of 21, who was born in 1992 in the United Kingdom and arrived legally in the United States at the age of 7, but the precarious legal status of the 4.5 million people estimated to be living in the U.S on expired visas and the apparently random nature of immigration proceedings.
21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, has not been charged with any crime in connection with the stop, and was in touch with the authorities, who have known his address since he filed for a U-Visa in 2017.
Incredibly, however, the Grammys organizers and artists conspired to almost completely eradicate him from the ceremony, and his name was not even mentioned until three and a half hours into the show—when Childish Gambino’s producer, Ludwig Göransson, who worked on “This Is America,” winner of the Song of the Year, gave 21 his only onstage mention.
Worst of all, in the eyes of many fans, was how a performance of the track “Rockstar” with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which 21 should have been performing, simply cut 21’s verse from the performance.
And how’s this for symbolism? Post Malone wore a 21 Savage T-shirt, but it was underneath his shirt, so all of it that was visible during his performance was the letter “A.”
Drake was no better. He may have bought 21 a Ferrari in 2016 to celebrate their successful collaboration on “Sneakin.” Drake used his time on stage to criticize the Grammys’ debatable record on diversity, but didn’t mention 21.
The total lack of comment made it hard to believe that, for example, just a week ago, Demi Lovato was forced off Twitter for retweeting a meme suggesting a “British” rapper like 21 would write his verse with a feather quill and ink pot.
Yes, the show must go on. But would a few brief moments to show solidarity with 21 Savage, locked up in a cell through no fault of his own, and millions more like him, really have killed the buzz?