Grime star Skepta has won the UK’s most prestigious music award; the Mercury Prize, taking Grime into the mainstream. The MC’s fourth album Konnichiwa took the prize, beating the likes of Bat for Lashes, Radiohead and the first posthumous nomination, for David Bowie’s final album Blackstar.
The Mercury Prize is an annual music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland.The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.
Skepta won the £25,000 award for his album that covers topics such as police harassment and his anger at British politics.
Speaking to the BBC, he said he would use the prize money to help those less fortunate in the UK. “Something positive, something to help other people feel as happy and as free as me, we’re doing a project right now, actually, building a studio in my old estate to help the young kids do music.”
When he picked up the award, the grime star from Tottenham said: “Thank you to everybody who was there for me when I was going through depressed times. I don’t know man, I’m so thankful … With no record label we just traveled the world.”
One of the judges Jarvis Cocker told the BBC that the jury had faced a tough decision between David Bowie’s Blackstar and the winner, which had been narrowed down from a list of 12. “In the end, the winner came down to a contest between two black stars. And we, as a jury, decided that if Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight, he would want the 2016 Hyundai Mercury Music Prize to go to Skepta.”
All of the other acts performed on the night, including Kano – who was shortlisted for Made in the Manor, but Radiohead didn’t perform live; instead they sent a pre-recorded version of ‘Present Tense’. Michael C Hall – star of TV drama Dexter performed David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’.
Hall said it was a great responsibility to be representing the musician on the stage when he played the lead in Lazarus, the David Bowie-penned musical which transfers to London next year.