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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, 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. ~ Andy Kellman