Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Home Music Skepta SHOULD have won the Mercury Prize

Skepta SHOULD have won the Mercury Prize

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Skepta - Konnichiwa

Skepta – Konnichiwa

Urban music is no stranger to success at the Mercury Prize. R&B superstar Ms. Dynamite set the standard in 2002. Dizzee Rascal’s seminal debut album Boy In Da Corner bagged the award in ‘03. Now Skepta’s historic, unexpected win on 15 September means even more. Grime’s recovery from the commercial, trite mediocrity of the past is finally complete. Grime is now the most important sound in the UK music scene.

Konnichiwa is a record that proves grime means so much more than bass saturated instrumentals and 140 beats per minute. The album is a masterpiece in self-expression. Skepta’s own background and experiences form the basis of the album, allowing a sense of intimacy to permeate through the record. As much a work of social criticism as art, Skepta vividly depicts the harsh reality of British urban life. The autobiographically charged “Crime Riddim” scathingly attacks the indignity of police stop and search culture. Real artistry stems from Skepta’s ability to empower not only himself but those marginalised and dismissed in urban communities across the UK.
The album is cohesive and focused. Features from American superstars are moulded around Skepta’s own themes and ideas. The strength of Skepta’s own voice and his message are never diluted by the hip-hop heavyweights that provide support on the album. Skepta personifies the modern independent artist, unsigned by any major label and acting as CEO of Boy Better Know, his own record company. The only messages that extend from his music are Skepta’s own, cultivating an organic relationship between himself as an artist and his fans. This artistic independence has allowed Skepta to remain true to the close relationship between artist and audience from which the grime scene was built on. Grime was born from the intimacy of underground raves and the freedom of pirate radio, environments that facilitated artistic freedom for MC’s and producers to thrive on.


Mercury Prize panels are not afraid to shock the public with surprise decisions. The relatively unknown Benjamin Clementine swept to victory last year, seemingly out of nowhere. Skepta’s unexpected victory denied the late great David Bowie one final posthumous accolade to cap an unprecedentedly influential musical career. The legendary memory of Bowie framed the entire ceremony, and Jarvis Cocker directly preceded the awards presentation with the idea that “David Bowie was looking down” on the soon to be crowned Tottenham MC.

While stylistically so very different, both Konnichiwa and the huge body of Bowie’s critically acclaimed work over the decades challenge an industry that is often bland and consumerist. Bowie consistently pushed the boundaries of musical creativity, while the UK grime scene provides the UK’s premier urban trailblazer through Skepta’s independent, thoughtful and socially conscious music. In 1993 on NBC, Bowie himself agreed that rappers could be considered the only truly creative people in the music business. How fitting it is that the 2016 Mercury has been awarded to an artist who demonstrates so clearly the “means of a discovery and purpose” in “Black and Hispanic music” highlighted by Bowie over two decades ago.
In Konnichiwa Skepta has crafted a record with energy and aggression to once again provide a voice for urban communities disenfranchised and ignored by society. The people’s microphone champion is the worthiest of Mercury winners.

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