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21 Songs by 21 Savage

| Thursday, April 23, 2020

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

21 Savage lurks in the darkness of moody trap rap beats, prowling between hi-hats and rattling bass. When he pops out or pulls up, he raps with an ice-cold demeanor, delivering the hardest bars in the most removed manner. And for the past four years, he’s been killing every track he’s been on.

Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, code name 21 Savage, came up with the terrifyingly-named Atlanta-based rap crew Slaughtergang. After a string of Slaughter-related projects, Savage found the perfect partner in crime in producer Metro Boomin. The duo pulled off their first heist with the ruthless “Savage Mode” in 2016, and since then Savage has been consistently dropping some of the best rap music around.

Unfortunately, 21 Savage is often overlooked and dismissed,

perhaps because his name is bit too intimidating. That’s understandable. Get to know 21 Savage by listening to Scene’s “21 Songs by 21 Savage” playlist, a collection of the rapper’s best stuff linked at the bottom of this article, and also reading through the Saint Laurent Don’s best moments.

April 2016:  “Issa Knife”

A couple of months before the release of “Savage Mode,” 21 sat down for an interview, or rather, he laid down for an interview. In the video of the conversation, young Savage looks half awake as lies on a pile of money and tells the story of his rough past — getting shot, losing a close friend. But the best part of the interview is a four-second clip that would go on to inspire the title of Savage’s 2017 release.

March 2017: 21 Savage devises a plan to kill Batman

For some highly questionable reason, 21 Savage made a guest appearance on the ESPN sport’s talk show “Highly Questionable.” In the interview, Savage sat in front of a green-screen image of New York city and inspired some really great tweets and an Instagram post from Justin Bieber. 


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August 2018: Issa Back to School Drive

For the third straight year, 21 Savage’s Leading By Example Foundation collaborated with City National Bank to give backpacks and school supplies to Atlanta youth. The following month, he partnered with the non-profit organization Get Schooled and donated $21,000. 21 cares.

February 2019: 21 Savage is British

On the same day the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams in a low-scoring, incredibly boring and really uninteresting Super Bowl, 21 Savage stole all the headlines. That day, 21 Savage was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who claimed that he was in the United States illegally. This came as a surprise to fans who were unfamiliar with Savage’s origins, specifically his birth in London, England and move to the States at the age of seven. 

The internet, bored with the Super Bowl, found 21’s situation to be quite entertaining and produced a collection of memes and tweets juxtaposing Savage’s rap persona with British culture. It became one of rap’s most viral moments, beautifully memorialized here.

Thankfully, Savage was released after nine days in custody and was able to properly establish himself as a U.S. citizen. The memes, however, will live forever.

January 2020: 21 Savage wins a Grammy

An artist doesn’t need to win a Grammy to be legitimized as serious and influential, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Savage won the Grammy for Best Rap Song for his song “a lot” and deserves a lot of credit for the win, although J. Cole’s guest verse deserves some credit as well.

March & April 2020: 21 Savage returns

Savage was relatively quiet following the release of “i am > i was” in 2018, but he made a statement in March with two scene-stealing features. His contributions to “Yessirskiii” off of Lil Uzi Vert’s “LUV vs. The World 2” and “12.38” from Childish Gambino’s “3.15.20” hinted at the possibility of new music from Savage, and this past Friday he delivered with “Secret.” The silky smooth track features a guest verse from R&B singer and Atlanta native Summer Walker, who acts as the Bonnie to Savage’s Clyde. With nothing but time left in 2020, rap fans — and music fans at large — can get excited for the likely arrival of a new 21 Savage album that’ll surely be full of hits.

On an unrelated note, if you’re interested in sharing your opinion on music and culture, consider writing for Scene. All are welcome to email [email protected] and join the discussion.

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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