The Rise of Pa Salieu

Elle Evans

By Elle Evans

Elle Evans

27 May 2020

Born in the bustling town of Slough, Berkshire, a blooming Pa Salieu was sent back to his homeland, Gambia in his early years. Living with his extended family, he was sent on a spiritual voyage. Immersing himself in a culture enriched with farmland and an essence of vibrancy,  he first established his love for music through listening to his Auntie, a folk singer, who’s traveled around the world, who would sing in the car or around the house. Honored and proud of his Gambian heritage, he claims that if it wasn’t for him living in Gambia, music wouldn’t be such a big element in his life. There was a mosque built in their front room where Pa Salieu would sit through religious practices every day, “It made me very disciplined,” he says, “It’s marked me, doing the same routines everyday set me up for life. It’s good I got sent to Gambia, I know a lot of my family and culture. Every afternoon we would call the neighbours from either side and ask them to eat. We would set out big plates and everyone would come to eat and share”.

Moving back to Hillfields in Coventry at the age of 10, a city filled with high-rising tower blocks and what he refers to as the ‘strip’, was a place in which Pa Salieu began to build the foundations of his career in music. Having previously stated that he used writing as a form of escape during his time in school, it wasn’t until 2018 that the thriving rapper began to really get into music and started listening to an array of freestyles. With a tough, self-willing drive to not end up like people around him who got caught up in the streets, his passion for music was re-enforced when he was asked to attend a studio in Stoke-On-Trent, where he started laying down, what’s now his un-blemished and charismatic sound. Known for his vibrant, energized and melodic music, Pa Salieu has created a well-respected and beloved sound that has seen him grow a substantial fan-base over the last 2 years.

If you venture back to the summer of 2018, this was when Pa Salieu released his first set of songs, including the collaborative single ‘Never Had’ alongside B.M.. Flowing over a cinematic-felt instrumental, Pa Salieu attacked the beat with a surging confidence. Playing around with his pen game and punching flows, you could feel the determination in his tone. Adding that extra kick to the track, it was around this time that he started to gain a weighty reputation around Coventry for his undeniable talent. Later on that year, after enduring back-to-back studio sessions perfecting his craft, he dropped ‘Say So’. Taking a more melodic approach to what we had previously heard on ‘Never Had’, this track was filled with an up-beat energy woven in with an infectious hook and bars which saw Pa Salieu proving his versatility. Filmed alongside his friends, the visuals conveyed that vibrant and color-filled essence that the track carried with it.

Little did he know, 2019 was the year that was going to change Pa Salieu’s life for the better. Catching the eyes of Mixtape Madness, he kick started the year with a highly-anticipated ‘Next Up?’ freestyle. Coming in at exactly 5 minutes long, stood against the signature city-scape backdrop, the rising rapper was catapulted onto a platform that quickly gained a flurry of engagement. Easing himself over mellow and ambient instrumental, this enabled Pa Salieu’s pen game and intricate flows to take center-stage. The second instrumental was a complete contrast in sound, spitting cruddy bars over the beat, an attacking and punching demeanor soon took over – proving why he was one to watch that coming year.

Following up from the explosive ‘Next Up?’ freestyle, Pa Salieu then jumped on a track with Trajixk and Mainz, titled ‘Radioplay’, shortly followed by another collaborative track ‘Roll Up’ with Jdiz and Shakavellie. Again, proving his versatility as an up and coming rapper, it wasn’t soon after that he dropped by BL@CKBOX to deliver just over 7 minutes of pure talent “Stack up the money then ghost, them bruddas they’re lying the most” he spits, intertwining both rap and melodic singing into one. In the summer of 2019, he made an even bigger move and joined forces with Kida Kudz, Juls and Ms Banks for the bouncing summer anthem ‘Like Tu Danz’. Throwing him into the spotlight further, this put Pa Salieu on everyone’s radar; “Me say hi gal, puff man de chali, who’s your daddy? First class ride, girl ride ‘pon this cabby, badder den bad girl, whine your body, dong in all your belly when we leave di party”. Catching the eyes of many, this is when the comparison comments against himself and East London’s J Hus started to surface. Preparing to release the song that arguably helped change his career was ‘Dem A Lie’, it didn’t take long for the song to circulate the streets, turning the heads of many. Layered atop of a bass heavy backdrop, he draws out the fakes and pretenders, spitting honest and direct bars throughout. Keeping the momentum and hype surrounding his name alive, he appeared on BBC 1xtra’s ‘Buss Bars’ series where we saw him spitting bars over the exclusive energy driven Toddla T beat.

Kick starting what’s set to be his biggest year yet, Pa Salieu released his break-out hit ‘Frontline’. Just two days into the new year and he had already made big moves. Produced by Jevon, he created a grumbling and haunting instrumental that enabled Salieu’s shifting vocals and unique tone soak in the spotlight. This song documents the neighborhood that raised him in Coventry, a vivid insight into the country’s inner cities and illuminates the ‘Frontline’ that raised him. Having made the song two years ago in just under 20 minutes, Pa Salieu was hesitant to release it at first but with a nudge from his manager, it was evidently meant to be! Since the release of ‘Frontline’, the track has amassed just 2.1 millions views, over 3 million streams and has signaled the emergence of an exciting British talent, whose bending brand of lyricism cannot be pinned down to conventional genres or sounds. A month later, Pa Salieu sat down with Tiffany Calver for his debut ‘Tiffany Calver Freestyle’. Pushing his flows to another level, Pa Salieu showcased his ability to pocket certain parts of the beat that not many other artists could. Joining forces with M1llionz, Teeway and Meekz for ‘Year of the Real’, this was the first time we saw him spitting bars over a drill backdrop. Shocking the nation with his versatility, Pa Salieu stood up for Coventry and certified his new position in the UK Rap game.

At end of February, he connected with one of London’s most loved rappers, SL, for ‘Hit The Block’. Produced by beat-smith Kwes, ‘Hit The Block’ is a hard-hitting street heater that’s garnered over 2.2 million views on YouTube alone. Last month, Pa Salieu hopped on Backroad Gee’s ‘Party Popper’ Remix alongside Ambush. Taking on the minimal yet bass-heavy beat, each artist added their own sauces to the mix creating the ultimate crud-infused banger. Throughout these features, is a visceral realism to Salieu’s verses and all factor into the strong impact he wants to leave with listeners, especially those growing up in similar circumstances to him; “I want to uplift people,” he says, “You don’t want to be in the bando, you don’t want your bando run through. It’s a warning, I’m here to warn while explaining my story”.

Gearing up for his forthcoming mixtape, Pa Salieu just dropped of two brand new releases titled ‘Bang Out’ and ‘Betty’. Produced by Felix Joseph and AOD, ‘Bang Out’ samples the new romantic cult hero David Sylvian, blending grime, British rap and his Gambian heritage into one. In comparison to ‘Betty’, which is a lot more laid back and layered atop of an eerie backdrop. These two singles emphasis the rappers undeniable talent and versatility, posing as one to watch this forthcoming year.

With an array of goals he intends to meet over the next few years including travelling, he also wants to give back and contribute to his family’s community in Gambia and eventually has long-term plans to help with infrastructure and education. “Everything I do is for back home,” he says. Pa Salieu intends to give back in Coventry too, to kids like him emerging from the city with music dreams of their own and need a leg up to get their start; “We just have to make it easier for people trying to get into music,” he says, “It can change people’s lives”.