One of the biggest names in the British grime scene just got a little bigger today; Nigerian-born and England-raised MC, producer and record label owner Skepta, or Joseph “Junior” Adenuga, was awarded the 2016 Mercury Prize for British Album of the Year for his latest album Kinnichiwa.
Other finalist nominees for this award included Radiohead, David Bowie, Laura Mvula, and the 1975. Kinnichiwa is the first hip-hop album to win this award in 13 years, since Dizzee Rascal received it for his album Boy in da Corner in 2003. This puts Skepta in the same realm of musical success as preceding winners of this award, including Alt-J, The Xx, the Arctic Monkeys, and Portishead. This is a monumental step for the UK Grime Scene, which has received little no to recognition in the United States, or any other country outside of England for that matter. The album was so well-received in the states that it artists such as Drake and Kanye West have vocalized their support of Skepta and concentrated British grime scene. Pharrell Williams even made a guest appearance on the single “Numbers”, which appeared on the UK Top 75 Singles chart for a week succeeding its release. Skepta has had multiple tracks make their way into the UK Top 40, including Doin’ It Again, Shutdown, and Crime Riddim, as well as collaborative track “Can You Hear Me” in the UK Top 10.
The album, which was released May 6th, consisted of 12 passionate, artistically progressive, and politically-charged tracks featuring artists like N. Dubz and Novelist. Skepta is fiscal with his attention in this album, paying little to anything but making his message heard loudly and reviving the resurgence of British black political protest. He states in an interview following the award ceremony that he “hopes [the album] helps people follow whatever dreams that they might have” and instead of looking to corporations, [inspires them] to think ‘I need to get a team together and make this happen'”.
Skepta is the epitome of a self-established go-getter, owning his own record label called Boy Better Know Records, which he created back in 2005 with his brother JMA. It was through this label that he released seven of his own albums, as well as albums by members of the BBK collective Wiley, Frisco, and Jammer. Back in February Drake, who has been a known long-time supporter of BBK and the British grime scene, made an announcement via Instagram that he was signing with the label, but the relationship is still unclear and he has yet to officially release any albums on the label.