Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, otherwise known by his alias 21 Savage stepped onto the hip-hop scene in 2014 by dropping a couple of mixtapes, The Slaughter Tape and Slaughter King. The tapes quickly went viral amongst younger listeners and were eventually picked in the mainstream media by radio shows such as The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 FM, courtesy of Charlemagne Tha God, who praised 21 Savage, for his authenticity and “street cred”. Charlemagne went as far as to declare 21 Savage as his favorite rapper of the 2016. But after a heated debate on the subject of crime and violence between Charlemagne and Andrew Schulz on The Brilliant Idiots podcast, Charlamagne admitted that he contradicts himself when it comes to 21 Savage; although he continued to commend 21 as a dope new artists he retracted his praise for 21 being thug.
Charlamagne and I have something in common. I’m guilty of the same opinion. On one hand, especially as a female who is vehemently against even a subtle suggestion of misogyny, I should condemn 21 for his chauvinism lyrical content; on the other hand however, I can’t help but be entertained with his wit.
Even though his lyrics are unrelatable to me, as an individual who doesn’t have experience growing in the hood, they paint a despondent picture of a kid that grew up in disadvantaged conditions that forced him to adapt by joining a gang and trapping to support himself.
In his August 4th, 2016 interview The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 FM, 21 Savage recounts many incidents in his life in which he had to deal with death of his friends and even his little brother, so much so, that it desensitized him to death. In the same hour he delves into details about his life growing up in the hood, being expelled from school in seventh grade for being armed with a pistol, joining his neighborhood gang, and eventually participating in numerous fights that led to shoot-outs, in which he was heavily injured.
Nonetheless, when you listen careful to his story in The Breakfast Club interview, you can’t help but notice that there’s a particular je ne sais quoi and warmth about him. And at the end of the day he’s still a kid who now has an opportunity to evolve and use his newly found fame as an opportunity to morph into something bigger and do much greater things with his life, just like many once-upon-a-time gangster rappers have done as well.
Oh and Savage, if you even come across to read this in time, one word of advice is don’t just focus on making music, learn how to manage your money and learn this music business so no one can ever steal your shine.
On another note, let’s give this track another listen because maybe I’m a little savage too in my own ways.
X – 21 Savage ft. Future