2015 MOBO Awards: Recognizing Black music in the UK


Zari Watts | Staff Writer

On November 4 in Leeds, England, over 400 million viewers gathered to watch the 20th annual 2015 MOBO awards. The show featured prominent musical artists like Stormzy and Skepta.

MOBO stands for “Music of Black Origin,” but the awards show is about the celebration and influence of Black music, regardless of race, nationality or heritage.

According to the MOBO site, Kanya King MBE founded MOBO in 1996 with a mission to “take urban music from the margins of British popular culture to the very heart of the UK mainstream.”

Like many award shows, MOBO is a catalyst in the careers of both United Kingdom and international artists. Over the years, U.K. artists like Estelle, Chipmunk, Emeli Sandé, Rita Ora, and the late, great Amy Winehouse have all used MOBO as a jumpstart to their musical success.

In recent years, grime stole the show. Luke Thompson, a sophomore business management major from Manchester, England defines the term “grime,” as a form of rap/hip-hop originating in  the U.K. that is very unique. “Grime is a reflection of artists and rappers and what they go through in their day-to-day struggle.

Grime is not for the charts, and it’s not for people to like the music. It’s for a specific group of people to be able to relate to their music. It’s very real, it’s quite gritty, it’s hardcore.”

South London MC Stormzy is on the rise on the grime scene. In an interview for Noisey, he declared, “I’m a proper grime kid. When you’re a grime kid, you’re a grime kid for life.” At this year’s MOBO’s, he won the Best Grime Act award for the second year in a row.

Peter Odegbami, a sophomore economics major from Southend on Sea, England states that Stormzy is bringing new music and a new attitude to the grime scene and declares, “Stormzy right now- he’s just on another level.”

Odegbami elaborates on the MC saying, “Stormzy’s attitude towards grime and how he does it- he’s a lot more honest with what he says. And he’s got that sort of style where he can actually mix into a lot of genres.”

He references Stormzy’s song, “Jupa,” off of his album Dreamers Disease, saying that his style even mixes with Afrobeats.

Stormzy is a powerhouse of natural talent as he started his career MCing at age 11, clashing with older MCs at his youth club. His overall talent was recognized this year when MOBO gave him an additional award, crowning him the “Best Male Act.”

One of Stormzy’s biggest inspirations, Skepta, was in on the MOBO action this year, too.

Skepta is a Nigerian grime MC, writer, producer and record-label owner from North London. As a returning MOBO award winner, he won the “Best Song” award this year.

However, Skepta’s popularity and recognition are nothing new. Odegbami comments on the reach of Skepta’s career sharing, “I’ve been a fan for a very long time, since before 2008. 2008 was when I became a big fan because he did the freestyle for Tim Westwood TV and I loved it.”

Thompson explains how Skepta has established his popularity while staying true to grime saying, “Skepta knows the game a bit, and his music has changed over time. He’s learned to stay within grime but gets his music out there as well.”

Skepta has performed alongside Kanye West in London, and according to U.K. fans that met Kanye at a Yeezy shoe giveaway earlier this year, Skepta and Kanye are rumored to have been in the studio together. Drake is major supporter who shouted him out in the credits of his latest solo album, and as seen in a Skepta instagram post, now has a tattoo reading “bbk” (in reference to Skepta’s record label “Boy Better Know”).

Although the focus is on U.K.’s urban artists, this year,  few artists that are popular in the U.S. were recognized as well. The Best Reggae Act award went to “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” artist, Popcaan. FKA Twigs won the Best Video award with her blend of digital sci-fi imagery and bondage in the video “Pendulum.” And there was no shocker that Drake’s album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late landed him the Best International Album award.

The show may be over for this year, but next year’s show is sure to feature new, urban UK artists worthy of recognition.

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