The Grammys may be one of the most talked about events in music, but there was an eerie silence around the absence of rapper 21 Savage, who was arrested over claims he is in breach of his visa.
21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is currently being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials following claims he came to the US from Britain in 2005 and is now residing in the country illegally.
The rapper was meant to perform at the 61st annual Grammy Awards, but his representatives confirmed over the weekend that he was forced to pull out of the ceremony for political reasons.
According to his manager, Stone Mound Meezy, he tried to contact organisers to get 21 Savage’s Grammy tickets reallocated so his mother could attend on his behalf. His request was refused.
In a series of tweets, his manager wrote: “We won’t be going to Grammys…the politics and s*** is ridiculous.”
He added: “Everyone want us to be quiet bout that s*** ain’t right man…it’s crazy.”
Post Malone, who collaborated with 21 Savage on hit single Rockstar, performed the song during the ceremony as part of a medley with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 21 Savage’s verse was notably cut from the performance.
During the set, Post Malone wore a barely visible T-shirt simply reading ’21 Savage’ under his black and purple jacket.
The rapper also featured on Childish Gambino’s song This is America, which won the award for Record of the Year. Childish Gambino was not present at the award show, but the song’s co-writer and co-producer Ludwig Göransson collected the award on his behalf and said: “21 Savage should be here right now.”
— Variety (@Variety)February 11, 2019
Dua Lipa, who won the Award for Best New Artist, spoke out in support of the detained rapper backstage.
“It’s quite upsetting given he hasn’t actually done anything and he’s given so much to American culture,” she said.
21 Savage is still being held in federal deportation custody and faces deportation to the UK.
Despite the turmoil, his manager said he remains in good spirits. In a tweet that has since been deleted, he wrote: “He is in lockdown for 23hrs of the day no TV or any communication besides our 10 min phone calls…Everything I’ve told him that has been happening made him happy & makes this time fly by thank y’all for the support.”