Skepta wins Mercury Prize
By Benjamin Irons
This year’s Mercury Prize Award Ceremony sees self-sufficient Grime MC Skepta take home the coveted winners trophy, beating David Bowie’s Blackstar, Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and Laura Mvula’s The Dreaming Room to the top spot.
"We as a jury decided that if David Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight, he would want the 2016 Hyundai Mercury Prize to go to... Skepta"
Born Joseph Junior Adenuga, the 34 year-old first came into the spotlight alongside his brother JME when they established the infamous grime label Boy Better Know in 2006, which has since taken artists such as Wiley, Solo 45 and even Drake under its wing. After Skepta’s notorious sound clash with the heady MC Devilman the same year, the rapper was put on the map, which prompted the release of his debut album Greatest Hits a year later.
Following the chart success of his second studio album Microphone Champion in 2009, headed by singles “Too Many Man” and “Rolex Sweep”, he released a third entry into his promising canon, Doin’ It Again (2011). The singles that were brought fourth – “Rescue Me” and “Cross My Heart” – were his most successful, with the former achieving a peak position at no. 14 in the UK Top 40. But 2012’s mix-tape Blacklisted became the eventual blessing in the disguise of a poorly received string of singles from his fourth coming – and eventually unreleased - full-length, The Honeymoon.
Refusing to accept the critics’ comments of a departure from his original sound, Skepta made 2014 his second coming, dropping the single “That’s Not Me” with brother JME. Achieving a peak position of no. 21 in the UK charts, a music video followed, which went on to win MOBO’s “Best Video” award the same year. Suddenly things began to click, and in the space of a year he dropped “It Ain’t Safe” along with arguably his most famous single to date, “Shutdown”, in early 2015.
Then came the social media announcement of his now critically acclaimed and most intimate fourth studio record, Konnichiwa, the following year. And the rest is history. And though the bookies would have tipped Bowie’s posthumous Blackstar to take the crown, or Radiohead to culminate their consecutive nominations, it was an eventual triumph for Grime and for black artists in general.