21 Savage Defends His Lyrics From Fans Calling Him A Hypocrite For Speaking Out Against Gun Violence

Thanks to legal cases against Young Thug and YoungBoy Never Broke Again, rap lyrics have been under the microscope as fans and critics debate rappers’ responsibility for their rhymes’ relations to reality. From New York drill rappers battling back against Mayor Eric Adams’ plans to ban their genre in public spaces to 300 Entertainment’s Kevin Liles calling for the expansion of New York’s “Rap On Trial” bill — and a similar bill that was recently introduced in the US Senate — the debate, which has raged since hip-hop’s earliest days, has received renewed attention and scrutiny thanks to current events.

Fans and rappers are increasingly being drawn into the discourse on a personal level as well. After 21 Savage tweeted about a rise in gun violence in his hometown Atlanta, some fans called him out, saying that the violent content of his music undermines his calls for peace. “Atlanta We Have To Do Better,” he tweeted yesterday. “Put The F****** Guns Down !!!!!” When a fan quoted a line from his recent Drake collaboration “Jimmy Cooks” at him, though, Savage pointed out that there should be a line between art and life.

“A song is for entertainment it’s not an instruction manual on how to live life,” he shot back. “In real life I give away a lot of money and spread financial literacy to my community. Stop trying to make me 1 dimensional.” It’s likely he was referring to his annual Issa Back 2 School Drive in Decatur this weekend, where he gave 2000 students school supplies like backpacks, notebooks, and shoes and offered services such as haircuts and braiding ahead of the upcoming school term.

For what it’s worth, some version of this debate has taken place in movies, television, and video games as well. And while rap has long espoused the “keep it real” attitude, the fact is that rappers have exaggerated their experiences since the very beginning. The moment was a great example of the issue at the core of the lyrics debate. While critics say that rappers’ lyrics encourage violence or depict it in detail, artists themselves insist that the lyrics aren’t to be taken literally or that they are simply recording their lived experiences.