Skepta - Longest act to breakthrough to mainstream audiences.
The Brits - a celebration of British music and various genres of UK culture. Well, not if 2016 has anything to do with it, having decided to leave out the whole Grime scene at its most prolific time. This year we were promised better, and many believe that this year, the Brits delivered - wrong!
2017 was no different - the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) must have thought that by simply nominating black artists into random categories that the problem would be fixed and everyone just seemed to go with the flow, well not me.
Some of the categories that the artists were nominated in were justified, such as Stormzy being put in for best British breakthrough act. I mean, many of us will agree that although we are now used to seeing his face on our screens, Stormzy has only established himself in the music industry fairly recently, having only released his debut album “Gang Signs and Prayer” last month. However, there was one man that was put in that category that doesn’t belong, whose career and influence in music doesn’t warrant that type of disrespect, and that man is Skepta.
As a young man from South London, who has been listening to Skepta’s music religiously since his 2009 album, ‘Microphone Champion’ and Channel U, it's clear to me that Skepta has only broken through on a mainstream platform where the culture has become watered down and lost to those who grew with the UK Rap scene.
You would be surprised that this is the case, considering the Brits Awards ceremony in 2015, when Kanye West performed his single ‘All Day’ whilst backed up by a blacked out swarm of UK MCs, in what was one of the most iconic displays for UK rap and grime culture – but no!
Many people still need to be educated on just how important a role Grime artists such as Skepta play in what we’re coming to regard as the UK music scene. Throughout his career, which spans around 12 years, on and off, Skepta has released four studio albums with the latest, “Konnichiwa” (2016) being released to critical acclaim and winning 2016’s Mercury Prize award.
But, even before the release of Konnichiwa, and even with albums such as “Blacklisted” (2011), Skepta has established himself in the UK as an icon to many who listen to his music.
Even outside music, he is continuing to influence the masses by even changing what we wear. If you’re on any high street, you will see the increase in the amount of people wearing tracksuits. His effect on fashion was even lauded by GQ when he was put in its top 10 best dressed list for their magazine, so if, GQ editor, Jim Nelson can see Skepta’s shine, all the way from New York, why can’t the BPI?
This is just a slap in the face to all those black artists who contribute to music and another reminder that black artists need ‘inclusion’ not just ‘diversity’.
Words: Joseph Ntege