Everything British-Gambian rapper Pa Salieu touches turns to gold right now. And rightfully so: his sound, which lurches between Afroswing, dancehall and flecks of UK road-rap, is refreshingly original and inventive. It seems almost unbelievable he garnered traction only at the beginning of this year with his single ‘Frontline’ – he’s already come so far.
By anyone’s standards – emerging or established – he’s had a remarkable year, and his debut project rounds it out stylishly. Opening track ‘Block Boy’ track is an apt introduction for the rest of the mixtape; Salieu’s music is at once infectious and anthemic as it is raw and visceral.“ My name is Pa / I’m from Hillside / bust gun, dodge slugs, got touched, skipped death,” he says on opening track ‘Block Boy’, unfurling his life growing up in Coventry.
It’s little wonder that upon their initial release, singles ’Frontline’, ‘My Family’ and ‘Betty’ instantly sealed themselves into the canon of modern UK music history with their infectious hooks and inventive production. In particular, ‘My Family’ is unforgivable in its raucous nature with UK rapper BackRoad Gee’s febrile presence helping intensify the track: “What the (fu-de-de), don’t call me again / You wasn’t banged up with me in the cell.”
Early comparisons marked him as a peer of Afroswing pioneer J Hus, who co-signed him immediately and on ‘Send Them To Coventry’, that comparison is apt where the distinct notes of the genre are weaved into the production. Where the two are separated is Hus’ playful melodies compared to Salieu’s rawer depiction of life growing up in Coventry, as he says on ‘Informa’, “C-O-V, hashtag city of violence”.
Though the mixtape may be a few tracks too long, it doesn’t take away from the overall impact. Instead, if anything, it shows how much material Salieu is sitting on and how he can sculpt his voice to a variety of beats with lyrics to match. Something Salieu showcases on ‘Flip, Repeat’, “I’d make a killing rhythm / off of any riddim / the grind can never stop / until I’m wrapped in linen.” Seriously brilliant stuff.
‘Send Them To Coventry’ promises that Salieu is unbelievably gifted with a ceiling nowhere in sight. He carries the entire mixtape with his singular voice oscillating between conventional rap flows, dancehall toasts and ice-cold venomous lyrics. Though features flood the project from UK rapper M1llionz ( ‘Informa’) and Trinidadian artist Boy Boy (on No Warnin’) to R&B hero Mahalia’s feature on ‘Energy’, Salieu allows them a moment to shine in his spotlight which confirms that we may be witness to the next great UK star.
- Release date: November 13
- Record label: Warner Records