21 Savage was born Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph on October 22, 1992 in Dominica, an island in the Caribbean. After his family moved to America, he spent his teenage life in Dacatur, a rough neighborhood of East Atlanta, Georgia. He was accustomed to violence and crime while being a petty criminal with his "21" gang, robbing and hustling on the street. He started dealing with drugs when he was 14. The rapper was arrested several times, mostly for drug possession.
At 19, 21 Savage was already a father of two. He was shot by two assailants during a drug deal that turned into an attempted robbery when he was 21. He lost a friend and his brother during the incident. As a tribute to his late brother, he got a dagger tattooed between his eyes. After the horrifying incident, 21 Savage realized that he was tired of living life as a thug. He then turned to hip-hop as a way out of his street life.
He began investing the money he had earned from the streets and recording at the renowned Patchwerk Studios. Reflecting on his dark life while making music, he soon caught record producer Metro Boomin's attention. On May 25, 2015, 21 Savage released his first mixtape titled "The Slaughter Tape". Less than two months since the release of "The Slaughter Tape", he unleashed "Free Guwop EP" in honor of his fellow rapper and influence Gucci Mane.
His second mixtape, "Slaughter King", arrived on December 1, 2015. He kicked his career into high gear when he released "Savage Mode" in the following year. It peaked at No. 23 on Billboard 200 chart, becoming the highest-charting EP to date. Future-assisted single titled "X" off the EP became 21 Savage's first platinum record. He performed the song at the 2016 BET Hip-Hop Awards.
He has also collaborated with the likes of Young Thug, T.I., Playboi Carti, Drake, Meek Mill, Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert and Young Dolph throughout his rap career. On January 18, 2017, 21 Savage announced that he had signed a record deal with Epic Records, a label owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
The rapper hit the road for "Issa Tour" from March to May 2017 before releasing his first full-length effort "Issa Album" in July. Laced with 14 tracks, it debuted at No. 2 on Billboard 200 and sold 77,000 equivalent units in its first week.
His music career aside, 21 Savage was romantically linked to buxom model Amber Rose as they were spotted on some occasions together in 2017. The two eventually went public with their romance after making it official on Instagram in July.
Just months before closing out the year, 21 Savage teamed up with Offset and Metro Boomin to release a joint album entitled "Without Warning" on October 31, 2017. Receiving generally positive reviews from music critics, the effort debuted and peaked at No. 4 on Billboard 200. Its lead single, "Ric Flair Drop", peaked at No. 13 on Billboard's Hot 100.
2018 didn't really started off well for the rapper. In addition to breaking up with Amber Rose after less than a year of dating, he caused controversy after launching "Guns Down, Paintballs Up" movement which was intended to reduce gun violence, though it prompted a rise in property crimes and homicide. He had yet to comment on the matter, but he paid for the funeral of a 3-year-old who was killed in a related incident.
Despite the controversy, 21 Savage didn't stop working on his music. He had a guest appearance on Young Thug's EP "Hear No Evil" and was featured on BlocBoy JB's “Rover 2.0.” as well as Ty Dolla $ign's “Clout”.
21 Savage began teasing his sophomore album "I Am > I Was" in early December, posting its cover art which featured a blurred image of himself. The tracklist was revealed on December 13 before he finally unveiled the effort on December 21. Featuring the likes of Travis Scott (II), Post Malone, J. Cole, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) and more, the album served as his first No. 1 album on Billboard after arriving atop the chart. Multiple songs off the set also charted on Billboard's Hot 100.
One song off the set caused a bit of controversy though, when LeBron James quoted a lyric of "ASMR" which people deemed perpetuating negative Jewish stereotype. LeBron himself already apologized for the issue, so did 21 Savage.