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On Sunday morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested rapper 21 Savage, claiming he was in the country illegally. Authorities say the Grammy-nominated rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was born in the U.K. and first entered the United States legally in 2005 when he was a minor, but his visa expired in 2006 and he never left.
“Mr. Abraham-Joseph is presently in ICE custody in Georgia and has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts,” ICE said in a statement released to CNN. “ICE will now await the outcome of his case before a federal immigration judge to determine future actions.”
As shocked as people were by the arrest, there was another fact they found almost as surprising. 21 Savage is so closely associated with the Atlanta hip-hop scene that his fans couldn’t believe he was actually British. While his dentition and possible deportation is no laughing matter, people couldn’t help but find some humor in his country of origin.
21 savage is now 9.525 savage I converted it to the metric system for him— Bryson (@brysonznasty) February 3, 2019
when 21 savage said “five-foot-five, she my ride or die” this who he meant pic.twitter.com/5X1Ytwes4g— Austin Way (@atotheway3) February 3, 2019
when 21 savage said “9th grade i was playing football...” that mf meant soccer— underdog (@SuprSaiyanTrnks) February 3, 2019
Slaughter Spice https://t.co/D0YtmzdJ8p— Juice (@OJTheKing) February 3, 2019
21 Savage when he says he's gonna pull up pic.twitter.com/kf9qRHhXwH— eddo ceja (@soysaucc) February 4, 2019
21 savage: but mum i want to be a rapper— cory (@_coryrichardson) February 3, 2019
his mom: ur not bloody skipping school again i swear to god if u don’t sit down and eat that fucking crumpet
21 Savage when he says he’s in the booth pic.twitter.com/tEDsSZ4TLJ— Aiden (@AidenSwift_) February 3, 2019
While some of these memes and tweets are undoubtedly funny, people are questioning the morality of having a laugh at someone who might soon be taken away from his family.
Fellow rapper Wale took issue with the memes, specifically calling out singer/actress Demi Lovato after she tweeted “So far 21 savage memes have been my favorite part of the Super Bowl.”
“Why is somebody freedom funny,” Wale commented when retweeting her post. “I don’t get the joke.”
Why is somebody freedom funny ... I don’t get the joke https://t.co/Eyf4clympS— Wale (@Wale) February 4, 2019
Others soon piled on Lovato, bringing up her struggles with drug addiction. She responded by saying, “If you’re gonna come at me for making a joke, try coming at me with some original not involving drugs.” She later deleted her Twitter account.
Many people agreed with Lovato, pointing out that she was only laughing at memes that Twitter had been sharing all day.
Yall: *jokes about 21 savage being british*— thot hokage (@_BlackCotton_) February 4, 2019
Demi lovato: yoo lmaooo
Twitter : Laughing at 21 savage memes💀😂😂🤣🤣🤣— SHODAI HOKAGE SENJU (@ShodaiRamaSenju) February 4, 2019
Demi Lovato : lmao
Also twitter : pic.twitter.com/SoXXebhdjP
demi lovato trying to exist without offending yall pic.twitter.com/CDzZCDQvIa— seren (@seweniti) February 4, 2019
“Wasn’t laughing at anyone getting deported. I know that’s not a joke… not have I EVER laughed at that,” Lovato wrote on her Instagram Story. “The meme I posted/was talking about was of him writing with a feather pen. Sorry if I offended anyone. But it’s no excuse to laugh at someone’s addiction let alone their OD.”
Wale and Lovato also took their spat to the “theshaderoom” on Instagram, after the account posted a screenshot of their Twitter exchange.
“Wale just salty I never replied to his desperate tweets years ago,” wrote Lovato.
Wale replied, saying “Still ain’t gon disrespect you .. still praying for you Demi. Glad you seen my old tweets. Hopefully you seen the ones providing comfort and prayer when you were down. I don’t kick people when they down. Go queen.”
An online petition started by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, has gathered more than 2,000 signatures to stop 21 Savage’s deportation.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.