One of the most surprising news stories of 2019 came when it was reported that 21 Savage was detained by US Immigration and threatened with deportation. It was revealed that the Atlanta-based rapper was actually born in London and lived there until he moved to the States when he was seven years old.
In October, 21 Savage was granted permanent citizenship of the United States and instantly plotted a European tour to celebrate, culminating in a huge homecoming show at London’s the O2 Arena.
21 Savage is one of the biggest rappers in the game but the U.K. crowd have never had the opportunity to see him live in this country. It was a historic night for the fans and a huge career milestone for the rapper. The lights dimmed and videos of his childhood in London flickered across the screen, 21 Savage was finally home.
The set started with ‘Don’t Come Out the House’, ‘Runnin’’ and ‘Glock on My Lap.’ The Atlanta-based rapper is perhaps best known for his A-list features but his solo material gets the crowd bouncing and vibing just as easily.
He showcased a great confidence and stage presence from the off. 21 Savage took his jacket off, throwing it into the crowd, revealing a t-shirt which was designed as a US passport, as he is now officially a US citizen.
Some of the early highlights included ‘X’ and ‘TOPIA TWINS’ – the latter from Travis Scott’s Utopia. These Trap-heavy hits were perfect for the huge arena shows as the standing crowd opened up for the customary mosh pits.
21 Savage has taken his career to the next level in the last couple of years, especially following ‘Her Loss’ – the Grammy-nominated collab album with Drake. The rapper performed multiple songs from this project, including ‘Spin ‘Bout You’, ‘On BS’ and the hugely popular ‘Broke Boys.’
It was a special occasion, and what would a celebration be without any guests?
21 Savage asked the crowd “We in London, right?” ‘Man Don’t Dance’ then played over the speakers and the crowd were stunned as J Hus came on stage. The UK rapper was supposed to perform on this very stage earlier this month but cancelled his tour, nevertheless, the crowd got a sneak peek of what they could have expected as he jumped into the crowd and brought great energy.
21 Savage had more tricks up his sleeve as he brought out Central Cee to perform ‘Doja Cat’, which led to deafening roars and screams. The track was not only a huge hit in the UK but also in the US, elevating the UK rapper to superstar status.
Following the flurry of special guests, the energy was electric in the O2 Arena and 21 Savage matched that with his performance of ‘rockstar’ – the chart-topping collab with Post Malone. Pyros and smoke cannons went off as the crowd sang bar-for-bar, especially “Savage, why you got a 12 car garage and you only got six cars?“
Finishing the show in style, Savage performed ‘Jimmy Crooks’, ‘Knife Talk’, ‘Bank Account’ and ‘Rich Flex.’ Nobody needed reminding but the setlist was hit after hit, reinforcing how big 21 Savage is in the Rap game and how iconic tracks/projects he has been involved with in recent years.
It has been 20 years in the making, but 21 Savage finally made his long-awaited return to London in style. For one-night-only, he turned the sold-out the O2 Arena into the 021 Arena.
Words: Adam Davidson
Photography: Burak Cingi