In a year that has seen grime and UK rap fully cross over into the charts, Melissa Kristella headed down to the 21st annual MOBO Awards ceremony to discover why this has always been the one event that the community counts on.
2017 has been the year for UK urban music. In a year where Stormzy was the first grime artist ever to reach number one with his debut album, Boy Better Know headlined the O2 arena, and J Hus became one of the UK’s most successful crossover artists of 2017, we have witnessed the rise of black music in the mainstream media. Finally, genres like UK rap and grime are being acknowledged as the heart of the UK music scene.
I will never forget writing an article in 2015 titled, ‘Why has the UK not accepted Grime as a renowned music genre?’ It came after Kanye West’s iconic Brit Awards performance where he chose to have the best artists in our scene including MOBO award-winners at the time, Skepta and Stormzy up on stage with him. It’s important to note that none of these acts were up for nominations or even invited to the Brit Awards ceremony as guests. But for 20 years the MOBO Awards has been one platform which has never let us down in delivering an incredible celebration of the success of our talented black artists and their art, and the list exhausting. In 1997 Shola Ama scooped up several awards for Best Newcomer and Best RnB act. 2001 saw So Solid Crew open the show and take home three awards. Ten years ago N-Dubz won Best Newcomer in 2007 and went on to have three Platinum selling albums. The consistency and integrity of the MOBO’s is a huge factor in why so many of us have such admiration and respect for the awards.
With the lack of recognition for so many years by other organisations, MOBO’s is so much more than just a celebration of music of black origin. It’s a day where Britain reflects on urban culture and a chance for some of the most inspiring artists to congregate for one evening in celebration of this.
21-year-old, East London rapper Young Bane was up for two nominations this year which was also the first time attending the MOBO’s. “I’m over the moon to be here,” he said on the evening. “This is definitely a moment in my career, especially after working so hard throughout the year for it to finally be recognised is very important to me.” It is a shared thought amongst British artists that the MOBO’s are a significant point in an artist’s career, and most certainly a chance to be showcased to the masses.
One of the UK’s hottest talents of 2017 Not3s, who found huge success this year with his debut single ‘Addison Lee’ racking up almost 9 million views on Youtube, spoke to me about how prestigious these awards are as a platform to be recognised by a wider audience. “We need to keep exceeding expectations,” he told me. Not3s also touched upon the unthinkable atrocities occurring in Libya at the moment and pledged that it’s moments like these that the black community needs to come together even more so. There’s no doubt that ceremonies like the MOBOS have always had a positive influence in achieving that.
The special night didn’t only belong to the artists as 23-year-old stunning host Maya Jama, the youngest presenter to ever host the ceremony told us that this year was “extra special” for her. “It’s been such an incredible year for black music, so many chart-topping artists breaking boundaries and just creating amazing music, in general, it’s been amazing to witness.”
With exceptional sets from the likes of extremely talented BGT winner Tokyo Myers, iconic rap duo Krept and Konan, winner of Best African Act Davido, and US superstar Cardi B the audience was treated to a variety of star performances which made sure the audience was left with a memorable show in mind.
Stormzy’s deserved success continued when he picked up three awards on the night including Best Album, which he said he put his heart and soul into, “leaving the studio with absolutely nothing left to give”. We’re extremely proud of him and his achievements this year which have helped in making 2017 such a significant year in music. Stefflon Don, Dave, Wizkid and Giggs were some of the other worthy winners.
Maya was definitely right in saying that the MOBO’s felt special this time around. 2017 has been a phenomenal ride for UK urban artists, filled with victory, progression and simply climbing heights which we once believed to be unreachable – and each year the MOBOs allows us to wholeheartedly reflect on what a journey it’s been, which makes it a remarkable day for all.
The MOBOs are a necessity in saluting the UK’s music culture and are proven to be critical in opening doors for more opportunities and progression for music of black origin. They have been and will continue to be a platform that genuinely reflects our beloved scene.
By Melissa Kristella