Unflinching yet offhanded rapper 21 Savage left street life behind to establish a career that has rapidly progressed with a string of hit singles as a headliner and featured artist, the RIAA-certified gold full-lengths Savage Mode (2016), Issa Album (2017), and I Am > I Was (2018), and a clutch of Grammy Awards. Savage Mode II, his 2020 collaborative LP with Metro Boomin, topped the Billboard 200 and was a hit around the globe. He followed it in 2022 with Her Loss, another full-length collaboration, this time with Drake.
The Atlanta-based artist, born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, turned to rap following a pivotal incident on his 21st birthday that resulted in several gunshot wounds and the death of his best friend. He made his debut the following year, in 2014, with the DJ Plugg-produced “Picky.” A pair of mixtapes and Free Guwop, an EP executive-produced by Sonny Digital, were released in 2015, priming 21 for mainstream infiltration. During the latter half of 2016, 21 was a constant presence on the upper reaches of the Billboard charts with a wave of collaborative and headlining singles, including “X” (featuring Future), “No Heart,” and Drake’s “Sneakin’.” The first two of those tracks highlighted Savage Mode, a set on which 21 and producer Metro Boomin were co-billed. In 2017, shortly after Savage Mode was certified gold by the RIAA, 21 released his proper debut full-length for major-label Epic, Issa Album, the source of the number 12 Hot 100 hit “Bank Account.” Only a few months later, he and Offset issued Without Warning, his second consecutive release to hit the Top Five of the Billboard 200.
Between headlining releases, additional success for 21 came as a featured artist on Post Malone’s “Rockstar” — Grammy-nominated for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance — and Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi.” A handful of other guest verses, along with contributions to the soundtracks of Uncle Drew and Superfly, followed in 2018. Near the end of the year, he released I Am > I Was, which entered the Billboard 200 at number one, supported by “A Lot,” another single that peaked at number 12. Grammy nominations for Rap Album of the Year and Best Rap Song followed shortly thereafter, with “A Lot” winning Best Rap Song. 21 and Metro Boomin’s sequel to Savage Mode arrived in 2020. Narrated in its entirety by actor Morgan Freeman, Savage Mode II retained the gothic mood of its predecessor and added new twists along the way. The set entered the Billboard 200 at number one. 2021 brought the EP Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a short soundtrack accompaniment to the ninth film in the Saw horror series that featured appearances by Young Nudy, Young Thug, and Gunna. Among the scattering of singles he released in 2022 was the hit “Don’t Play That” with King Von. Later in the year, 21 teamed up with Drake for a full collaborative album titled Her Loss. ~ Andy Kellman