Coventry Rapper Pa Salieu Wins BBC Sound Of 2021 Poll
23-year-old artist Pa Salieu has won BBC Music’s Sound Of 2021 poll, which selected him as Britain’s most-exciting new musical talent. He follows in the footsteps of previous winners such as Adele, Celeste, and Michael Kiwanuka.
Pa Salieu released his debut mixtape, Send Them To Coventry, in November 2020, to critical acclaim. Its focus on tales of life growing up in Coventry. The rapper was born in Slough, before he moved to live with his relatives in Gambia for six years when he was young and later returned to the UK and settling in Coventry when he was eight.
His single Betty landed him a spot on BBC Radio 1’s playlist early in 2020, and he was championed by Tiffany Calver on her BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra programme, The Rap Show, where he also appeared as a guest, freestyling back in February 2020 to critical acclaim.
Speaking about the award, Salieu said: “I was just really happy to even be included on the list alongside some amazing artists, a few of who I know personally. They’re all crazy talented, so to be the winner of something like this so early in my journey just feels mad.”
The poll was voted in by industry figures including BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, plus artists including Billie Eilish, Stormzy, Jorja Smith, Wolf Alice, AJ Tracey, Yungblud, Foals and Charli XCX.
Annie Mac commented that, “His songs are exquisitely produced, with enough restraint for Pa’s voice to shine through and have the space to tell the stories of his life. They are stories of friendship and family, of violence, exclusion and racism, and they act as timeless evidence of British street life at the turn of new decade.” and that Salieu has “a unique perspective on Britain.”
In an interview with the BBC, Pa Salieu was asked if there was a message he wanted to send with his music. He said, “Build. Unity. That’s what we lack. Where I come from, we lack compassion. It’s going to have to come from me. I’m not a punchline artist. Everything I say is exactly how I feel and exactly what I see and exactly where I’m coming from. My message is just build, build, build. Break down or make it out. Protect your energy. Protect everything.”
The acknowledgement from BBC Sounds marks an exciting 2021 for the artist. His songs reflect the hardships and horrors that he has seen – from moving to Gambia to Hillfields in Coventry, and seeing the effects of poverty and violence – including losing two of his best friends to gun violence as well as others to prison and addiction, while he himself was shot in the head in 2019. But Salieu describes 2020 as “Sick. It’s just been a year of taking life in. I’m excited for next year and what’s to come, and 2020 has given me the chance to see the light. The light’s there but I’m still in that tunnel.”
He is set to tour the UK in 2021, kicking of in Bristol on 11th May and finishing in Coventry on 21st May, as what may well be a promising and exciting year for Pa Salieu.