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Pa Salieu wins BBC Music Sound of 2021



Pa Salieu has been crowned the winner of BBC Music Sound of 2021. 

The 23-year-old rapper was selected by a panel of 160 industry experts and alumni artists including Billie Eilish, Stormzy, Jorja Smith, Wolf Alice, AJ Tracey, YUNGBLUD, Foals, and Charli XCX. 

Pa Salieu was born in Slough and spent his formative years in The Gambia before moving to Coventry at the age of 8. His new home later became the inspiration behind his breakout track Frontline and his debut mixtape Send Them To Coventry, which he dropped late in 2020 to widespread acclaim. He began his journey with BBC Music back in the summer of 2019, with his track Dem A Lie premiering on BBC Radio 1Xtra for Target Embargo. He has since recorded freestyles for Toddla T and  Tiffany Calver on 1Xtra, and joined the likes of Headie One, Ghetts and Burna Boy on the bill for 1Xtra Live 2020. 

He has performed live in session for Radio 1’s Future Sounds with Annie Mac, with his recent single My Family featuring BackRoad Gee making the longlist for Annie’s Hottest Record of the Year 2020. He has also picked up consistent Tune Of The Week support from Nick Grimshaw and Clara Amfo. 

Pa Salieu says: “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." 

Annie Mac says: “I’m delighted for Pa Salieu winning the prestigious Sound of 2021. As a man whose childhood was split between The Gambia and Coventry, he has a unique perspective on Britain. 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.” 

The top five artists for Sound of 2021 are:

  1. Pa Salieu
  2. Holly Humberstone
  3. BERWYN
  4. Greentea Peng
  5. GRIFF 

Also on the longlist for Sound of 2021 (in alphabetical order):

  • Alfie Templeman
  • Bree Runway
  • Dutchavelli
  • girl in red
  • The Lathums 

Profiles of all ten artists are available on the BBC Music Sound of 2021 website, along with details of the panel and how the list was compiled. 

Sound of… started in 2003. Last year Celeste claimed the top spot ahead of a strong longlist featuring the likes of YUNGBLUD, Arlo Parks and Beabadoobee. Artists named on the list over the years include Stormzy, Adele, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Foals, Dizzee Rascal and Lewis Capaldi. 

Previous winners 

2020 - Celeste
2019 - Octavian
2018 - Sigrid
2017 - Ray BLK
2016 - Jack Garratt
2015 - Years & Years
2014 - Sam Smith
2013 - HAIM
2012 - Michael Kiwanuka
2011 - Jessie J
2010 - Ellie Goulding
2009 - Little Boots
2008 - Adele
2007 - Mika
2006 - Corinne Bailey Rae
2005 - The Bravery
2004 - Keane
2003 - 50 Cent 

Other Sound of… alumni include Stormzy, Florence + The Machine, Lady Gaga, Foals, Dizzee Rascal, Dua Lipa and Lewis Capaldi.

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