Image via CHILD

Pa Salieu fills us in on his debut mixtape Send Them To Coventry

Watch him perform a very special livestream of it tonight on YouTube.

by Frankie Dunn
29 October 2020, 7:06pm

Image via CHILD

On 2 January 2020, Pa Salieu released the game-changing “Frontline” and nothing would be the same again. In part, sure, because of the global pandemic. But also because for the first time in a while, the UK had a musician to get truly excited about. The 22-year-old Coventry-raised Gambian artist had turned up delivering hard rap over an Afrobeat melody and telling the world about his Midlands hometown — Hillfields, to be exact — the ‘frontline’ in question, the estate he grew up on. Since then, he’s released a series of impressive tracks and visuals — “Betty/Bang Out”; “My Family”; “B**K” — firmly securing a place on everyone’s radar. And now there’s a mixtape on the horizon. 

Just this morning, Pa announced that his debut project, Send Them To Coventry — an old English idiom meaning to ostracise someone — would be arriving on 29 November. But how does one celebrate such an announcement during the age of coronavirus? A livestream of course! Tonight at 7pm on YouTube you can watch a concert of epic proportions -- complete with a large-scale, mixed-format video installation capturing Coventry through Pa’s eyes — across which he will perform the whole damn mixtape. That’s 15 tracks with guest vocals from M1llionz, Mahalia, Backroad Gee and more (expect guest performers, basically), and production from the likes of Felix Joseph, Jevon and Kwes Darko.

“We drove around Coventry for a day with a couple of Pa’s friends, Mendez and Jam, who showed us the spots where Pa grew up and had written about in the mixtape,” said CHILD, the pair of directors behind the livestream project. “Coventry was quite empty when we shot there a few weeks ago, but that actually made for some really interesting empty landscape shots to backdrop Pa’s performance in the live space.”

Dan Chalmers, Director of YouTube Music EMEA, feels the same as we do about the young rapper. “Pa Salieu is such a special artist. His unique approach to storytelling makes his music and videos incredibly compelling and powerful,” he says “When an artist like Pa comes along who sits completely in his own lane, it’s an exciting moment for both his fans and for us at YouTube too, because we can see the music trends and styles shifting. The visuals for his mixtape livestream is another great example of his maverick creative vision.”

To celebrate both the mixtape announcement and tonight’s live streamed performance, we gave Pa a quick call to find out more about the concert, the mixtape and his new single “Block Boy”… 

How has your life changed since we last spoke to you in the wake of “Frontline”?
I’ve been working more, hella work, non-stop. I try not to look left or right… just progress.

And now it’s mixtape time! Are we right in believing that this livestream performance is your first official show? Probably not how you pictured that going, right?
Yeah, it’s my first proper show. You know what it is, before the lockdown I was getting used to doing smaller shows and it was mad. I see it in a positive light, not being in a crowd… I don’t want this to sound bad, but I’d rather do this. It’s a great opportunity than going straight to the deep end, you know? I ain’t got a past in shows or performing or anything. So this is sick. I love it.

Does it feel like there’s less pressure this way?
Yeah, it’s like a video shoot! I like to get creative with it. This year has given me situations like this where it feels like a big rehearsal in itself.

“I’m not a punchline artist, I’m a storyteller” - Pa Salieu

A big rehearsal that the whole world is going to see. What can you tell us about the visuals that will play behind your performance?
It’s literally just visuals of the ends in Coventry: my area, the blocks. It proper went with the performance. It’s something different. The set though… there was a camera on a crane! I’ve never seen that. It was mad. Some mad gadgets. We did it in a studio in North London. The whole production, I’ve not seen nothing like that before. 

And the visuals evolve as the mixtape goes on, paired with each track?
Yeah, every track is different. The team went to Cov and met with two of my boys who took them round the whole ends to take visuals of everything. They’re in it and they feel good about it.

When we last spoke to you, you told us “I want people to be able to close their eyes and just see. I want it to be like a movie, a movie about my life…” Do you feel like you’re on the way to making that happen with this project?
That’s what I’d like to think. For me, when I close my eyes during the process of it all, as I write the lyrics, I see a movie. I’m not a punchline artist, I’m a storyteller of where I’m coming from, what I believe, what I stand for. I want people to close their eyes and really see something.

The livestream will end with the premiere of your video for new single “Block Boy”, a party tune that’ll make everyone miss the club more than ever. How dare you release something like that in a pandemic! 
We’ve got to adapt, man. We made it like a dancehall Gambian vibe as well, so you just wanna dance. Hopefully it still does the vibe! With my music, I like families vibesin’ with it, you know? It’s a unity thing, and that’s why I don’t commit to genres — I like any kind of tune. If you don’t like the sound of one tune, at least I’ve got another one that you can vibes to. My music is just unity, man. That’s where I go with it. Clubs don’t matter, it’s all vibes vibes vibes anyway. 

Is that something that you’d say carries across the whole mixtape?
Yeah, it’s genreless. I’m doing anything I want. Like I said, I want all kinds of people to vibes with it. I want families and aunties to vibes with it! 

Pa Salieu’s Send Them To Coventry will be released on 13 November. Watch his special livestream performance of the mixtape on YouTube here.