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Two years after near-fatal gunshot wound to head, UK rapper wins prestigious music award

A young British rapper who survived a near fatal shooting two years ago has become the latest winner of a British radio award that launched the careers of Adele and Sam Smith.

Pa Salieu, who was born in Slough to Gambian parents, won over judges with his hard hitting lyrics about life on the streets, the BBC reports.

The 23-year-old has been dubbed the United Kingdom’s most inventive rapper in years, who after growing up in Gambia was sent to Coventry at age eight.

His growing success means life is now very different to a year ago. 

After surviving a shotgun attack outside a pub in his hometown in Coventry, Salieu says he believes if he had died, he would have been perceived as a criminal.

"'Gang related. Drive-by shooting.' Trust me, the whole perception would be different right now. You would have never heard of me. If you do hear of me, it's, 'That's that kid that died. Gun crime. These foolish youths.' No."

Six years ago, Salieu was in trouble with the law for carrying a knife. Yet he says this was only for his defence.

"Police used to say I'm in a gang. I wasn't in a gang. I was never in a gang. Because I used to try to survive? I got caught with a knife when I was 17? What, because I'm paranoid of the streets?

"I got shot in the head. People get killed every day for no reason where I'm from. I don't expect no-one to understand."

Salieu’s hometown is central to his music, rapping about it as "COV, #CityOfViolence".

For those that live there, his music is a voice for those who did not make it out, including two of his friends who were killed there.

"Our voices count," he says.