The British national was arrested in 2019 after Immigration and Customs Enforcement learned he had been living in the U.S. on an expired visa. ICE officials told the media 21 had been convicted of a felony drug charges in Fulton County, Georgia, in 2014; however, his attorney later clarified that the conviction had been vacated prior to his ICE arrest.
21—born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph—remained in ICE custody for more than a week before he was ultimately released on bond. The rapper spoke about the incident during a recent appearance on My Expert Opinion with Math Hoffa, revealing Meek was instrumental in facilitating his release.
“They detained me ’cause they said I had felony conviction, but the felony conviction got dismissed,” he explained. “And I called Meek while I was in jail and told Meek, ‘Bro, I just got locked up.’ [Meek] called Jay-Z, and Jay-Z put a lawyer on my case … [he] played a role in getting me out of there.”
Hov and Roc Nation tapped attorney Alex Spiro to assist 21’s legal battle. Jay called the arrest an “absolute travesty” and vowed he and his team would continue fighting the case until the rapper was released from ICE custody.
“The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty, his U visa petition has been pending for 4 years,” Jay wrote in a statement shortly after 21 was detained. “In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately, #Free21Savage.”
While speaking to My Expert Opinion, 21 expressed gratitude to Jay for lending him a hand, even though he is not part of the Roc Nation family.
“[Jay’s] ain’t just doing that shit for anybody, just ’cause you rap …,” he said. “It’s like you gotta be from a certain cloth … I don’t feel like he’s just doing that for anybody. I ain’t Roc Nation or any of that shit.”
Elsewhere in the interview, 21 spoke about linking with J. Cole on the Grammy-winning track “A Lot.” He said he met the Dreamville rapper during a party at the Made in America festival—the same night he was introduced to Jay. 21 said Cole told him to reach out if he ever needed anything, and also offered a piece of advice before he left: “Make sure you tour.”
“He was like, ‘Don’t never stop touring, no matter what.’ He was like, ‘Go on tour. Take the sacrifice,’” 21 recalled. “So I got his number and we just stayed in contact. And that n***a called me, he called me out of the blue.”
After 21 informed Cole he was working on album, the Fayetteville said he would be in his city in a few days. 21 admitted he thought Cole was capping, but quickly learned that wasn’t the case.
“He text me Tuesday, ‘I’m here. What’s the address to the studio?’” he said. “I ain’t even have the studio booked, and I had my kids … so I pulled up with my kids and shit, played him a couple of songs, and I played him ‘A Lot,’ and he’s like, ‘That’s the one.’”
Hoffa then referenced Cole’s guest verse on Benny the Butcher’s “Johnny P’s Caddy,” in which he declared himself the “greatest rapper alive.” The host asked 21 if he would ever allow another artist to make such a bold statement on one his tracks.
“Yeah, that ain’t what I’m in it for,” 21 responded. “I want to be the greatest me. I don’t care about being the greatest rapper. ‘Cause who is the greatest rapper? It’s debatable. It’s gonna be debatable for the rest of time … fuck all that.”