In topping the Sound of 2021 list, Pa Salieu follows in the footsteps of previous winners like Adele, Ellie Goulding and Michael Kiwanuka.
He knows the headlines could have been different, however.
"If I died last year," he begins, reflecting on how he was shot in the head outside a pub in his home city in 2019. "If I actually died - in their eyes, I would be a criminal."
[...] "He has a unique perspective on Britain," says BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, who was among the 160 tastemakers who voted for Sound of 2021.
"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."
Coming in at second place in the BBC Sound Of poll was Holly Humberstone, trailed by BERWYN in third, Greentea Peng in fourth, and Griff in fifth. Other artists who made the longlist include Bree Runway, Girl In Red, and more.
Here are a couple more excerpts from the BBC's interview with Pa Salieu about his music and his goals for 2021:
Is there a message you want to send with your music?
Build. Unity. That's what we lack. Where I come from, we lack compassion. It's going to have to come from me. I'm not a punchline artist. Everything I say is exactly how I feel and exactly what I see and exactly where I'm coming from. My message is just build, build, build. Break down or make it out. Protect your energy. Protect everything.
[...] Do you know Coventry's musical history, people like The Specials?
Yeah, my best friend that got killed, his granddad was Neville Staple, he was in The Specials. [Staple's grandson Fidel Glasgow was stabbed to death in 2018.] I knew his granddad used to make music but I never knew the powers of it. Then he just died. So it's not a joke. His name has to live on.
What are you aiming for in 2021?
I aim for progression. Just building, still. I'm so laid-back, bro. I work every day - I ain't slept for the last five days - but I'm so laid back as in I don't pressure myself. I accept that this is the start.
Watch some Pa Salieu videos...