(BBC) — Rapper 21 Savage says he’s “accepted” that he might be deported to Britain following his arrest by US immigration officials ICE earlier this month.
He says he moved to the US from the UK as a seven-year-old in 1999. ICE says he has overstayed his visa.
In his first interview since the arrest, 21, real name She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, said that in his eyes, he’s “from Atlanta”.
He’s been released on bond pending a trial.
The rapper told ABC’s Good Morning America that despite concerns about being deported, he’s “learned to embrace the times when I’m down, because they always build me up and take me to a new level in life.
“Even if I’m sitting in a cell on 23-hour lockdown, in my mind, I know what’s gonna come after that. So I’m not happy about it. But I’m accepting of it.”
Following his arrest on 3 February, ICE claimed that 21 had been in the US since 2005 and that his visa ran out the following year.
The 26-year-old, who has children that were born in the US, says ICE “confused” the dates.
“I was seven when I first came here. And we had left in 2005 because my uncle died.
“So we went back (to the UK) to go to his funeral, and then we came back,” he added.
Asked by GMA whether he knew his visa had expired, 21 said: “I didn’t even know what a visa was.”
“I knew I wasn’t born here but I didn’t know what that meant as far as when I transitioned into an adult, how it was going to affect my life. I wasn’t hiding it, but I didn’t want to get deported.”
The rapper says he was driving on the day of the arrest when he saw “guns and blue lights”.
“And then I was in the back of a car and I was gone.”
He claims he wasn’t told he was under arrest: “They just said ‘We got Savage’.
“It was definitely targeted.”
It came days after the release of the music video for his song A Lot, which includes lyrics critical of America’s immigration policy under President Donald Trump.
“Lights was off, the gas was off, so we had to boil up the water / Went through some things, but I couldn’t imagine my kids stuck at the border,” he rapped.
21’s lawyers think the arrest is linked to those lyrics, but the rapper says he “can’t really say” whether there’s any truth to the claim.
There was widespread confusion in Atlanta when news of 21’s arrest broke.
Most people thought he’d been born in the city that he mentions so frequently in his raps.
He says he “doesn’t remember” too much about England and as far as he’s concerned, Atlanta is home.
“I went into first grade here (the USA), so I don’t really remember too much. I remember my grandma’s house (in the UK) and that’s probably about it. I didn’t really do much there,” he said.
“I’ve been Atlanta probably 20 years, 19 years. I’m from Atlanta in my eyes.”
21’s latest album, I Am > I Was, came out at the end of last year and went to the top of the Billboard charts.
He was nominated for two awards at the Grammys last Sunday night, but instead of being there he was still at a detention centre in Georgia.
A petition asking for his deportation to be stopped was signed by nearly half a million people following his arrest, and Jay-Z hired lawyer Alex Spiro to help fight against it.
Mr Spiro told Good Morning America he’s “confident” 21 will be able to remain in America.
As for the people still at the detention centre where 21 has spent the last few weeks, the rapper said: “I feel your pain, and I’m going to do everything in my power to try to bring awareness to your pain.”