Slough-born grime artist Pa Salieu has won this year’s BBC Sound Of poll, beating Trinidadian rapper BERWYN, neo-soul vocalist Greentea Peng and Norwegian songwriter girl in red to claim the top spot in 2021.
Salieu turned to music after a close friend’s death in the late 2010s, with his Gambian heritage and Coventry upbringing central to a bold musical identity. After murky, afro-rap single ‘Frontline’ first turned heads in early 2020, debut mixtape ‘Send Them To Coventry’ was released in November to critical acclaim, with dancehall-groove ‘Betty’ and jazz-funk backed ‘Energy’ among the myriad highlights.
Fuelled by hard-hitting lyrics that paint his hometown both as a city of violence and of salvation for marginalised youths, Salieu’s music is praised by the BBC for its lyrical “depth and guile”, delivered against an “inventive range of backdrops.” For Salieu, his mission is to be a spokesperson for the tough-living Hillfields suburb in Coventry. “I’m going to be the voice of that as much as I can,” he told the BBC.
Since 2003, the annual BBC Sound Of poll has assembled top music critics and industry figures to predict the most promising new talents for the year ahead. Following the inaugural win by American rapper 50 Cent, Adele, HAIM and 2020 Mercury Prize winner Michael Kiwanuka have topped the now-prestigious list.