Song of the Week: a lot

February 15, 2019

On Feb. 3, 2019, London-born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph or 21 Savage was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for residing in the United States with an expired visa, according to CNN.

The discussion of immigration, detention and deportation has been extremely prevalent in the American media, and with a public case involving a celebrity emerging, a public uproar of celebrities, fans and Black Lives Matter activists fought for 21 Savage’s release. A petition using the #Free21Savage was created and received over 480,000 signatures.

Across social media platforms, people supporting 21 Savage reposted this poster along with the hashtag #Free21Savage

With the assistance of immigration attorneys, 21 Savage was finally released on bond on Feb. 12, 2019, pending a deportation hearing.

What resonated with me upon learning of his arrest was not just the fact that another person had been detained by ICE, but that just days before, on Jan. 29, 21 Savage spoke out against detention in the United States in his performance of “a lot” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

I have to be honest. I have not once thought that 21 Savage was talented or special in any way, and I only enjoyed some of his songs because they were fun to dance to. Even upon hearing the studio version of “a lot” featuring J Cole, I didn’t pick up on the messages behind his lyrics, and the verse addressing immigration wasn’t added until the performance, and later in the music video, which was released on Feb. 1.

That said, I’ve gained a certain appreciation for this song and the intentions behind it.

Though the cover reads “I AM > I WAS” the title of the album is referred to as “i am greater than i was.”

Unlike most of the songs off of his album, “i am greater than i was,” which peaked at number one and currently holds the number two spot on the Billboard Top 100 Album charts, “a lot” differs from his typical “trap” rapping, a style invented in Atlanta, the city 21 Savage claims he grew up in.

While his cadence and flow aren’t exciting, what seems like another materialistic song transforms into an artful discussion of incarceration, gang violence and his struggles with loss. A smooth beat and a slow, repetitive sample from East of Underground’s “I Love You” play, the words “I love you for so many reasons” commanding the song with the help of three background vocalists during his performance.

Throughout the song, 21 Savage goes on to discuss “penitentiary chances just to make a couple bucks,” “I’d rather be broke in jail than be dead and rich” and “I have seen so many handshakes turn to hate.”

He also addresses the loss of his brother and best friend due to gang violence and his own experiences getting shot as well.

The song becomes repetitive after a while, but this is alleviated by the addition of the new third verse.

His third verse concludes with “lights was off, the gas was off, so we had to boil up the water (Straight up)/ Went through some things, but I couldn’t imagine my kids stuck at the border (Straight up)/ Flint still need water (Straight up), people was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers (On God).

Though I don’t believe this is the greatest song in the world, what I can appreciate is an artist using their platform to speak on issues that are important both to them and to the world.

Check out the slideshow below of images from the “a lot” music video. 

Check out his performance on The Tonight Show Starring 21 Savage below!


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