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Pa Salieu wins BBC Sound of 2021 poll

Previous winners of the BBC’s annual poll include James Blake, Adele, Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy

  • Words: Patrick Hinton | Photo: Esme Surfleet
  • 7 January 2021
Pa Salieu wins BBC Sound of 2021 poll

Pa Salieu has topped BBC Music’s Sound of 2021, the national broadcaster’s annual poll identifying the most exciting new musical talents.

The rapper from Coventry, who starred on the cover of Mixmag in October, emerged as the winner from a 10 artist longlist that also included Berwyn, Greentea Peng and Griff.

Read this next: From the dust: The rise of Pa Salieu

Previous winners of the BBC’s poll include James Blake, Adele, Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy.

Speaking to the BBC about his success, Pa Salieu reflected on surviving being shot in the head outside a pub in Coventry in 2019 and how differently he would be viewed if he hadn’t survived.

"If I died last year, if I actually died - in their eyes, I would be a criminal," he said. "'Gang related. Drive-by shooting.' Trust me, the whole perception would be different right now. You would have never heard of me. If you do hear of me, it's, 'That's that kid that died.' 'Gun crime.' 'These foolish youths.' No."

He added: "Police used to say I'm in a gang. I wasn't in a gang. I was never in a gang. Because I used to try to survive? I got caught with a knife when I was 17? What, because I'm paranoid of the streets?

"I got shot in the head. People get killed every day for no reason where I'm from. I don't expect no-one to understand."

Read this next: “It's in my blood to build”: Why Pa Salieu is in his own lane in the UK music scene

Last year Pa Salieu released his debut mixtape ‘Send Them to Coventry’ to widespread acclaim.

Pa Salieu also spoke to the BBC for an video segment, talking about the period of his childhood he spent growing up in The Gambia and the racism he encountered in the UK after moving back there aged eight.

“Back home I got learn who I am, here I got to learn what is life,” he said.

Watch the full clip here.

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter

Read this next: Get the best of Mixmag direct to your Facebook DMs

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