David Bowie fans around the world were left stunned when Skepta, whose real name is Joseph Junior Adenuga, was given the Mercury Prize award at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on September 15. The Mercury Prize is a prestigious award that was created in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards, where artists from the United Kingdom and Ireland all vie with each other in a fierce bid to win album of the year.
This year’s shortlisted Mercury Prize contenders included Radiohead with their album A Moon Shaped Pool, the Savages’ Adore Life and David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar. But it was the loss of Blackstar that shocked the most people. Released in January, 2016, Blackstar was David Bowie’s 25th and final attempt at perfection, as well as his last album ever made. Bowie had been secretly suffering with cancer, but with a dazzling display of bravado continued to write and record Blackstar and passed away just two days after the album was released. With 12 judges determining the fate of the Mercury Prize, most critics and fans assumed that Blackstar was slated to win album of the year. But in a surprise turn of events, Septa’s album, Konnichiwa, won by a margin of seven to five.
While Skepta was busy comparing himself to Muhammad Ali, those close to Mercury Prize judge and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker have stated that he was rallying for Bowie to win up until the final moment, but after awarding the prize to Skepta played this down and suggested that a newbie winning was something that “David Bowie would have wanted,” as reported in The Telegraph and that the award came down to “two black stars.”
“If David Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight, and maybe he is, we’ve seen traces of his influence in many of the acts tonight. He would want the 2016 Mercury Prize to go to Skepta.”
For those unfamiliar with Skepta, his career as an artist began with the group Meridian Crew, who specialized in a type of music known as grime, a blend of jungle and house music. Skepta told Bowie to rest in peace after accepting the award, and as reported in The Guardian, paid tribute to the internet as part of his success, saying that it had given him a very real freedom to speak directly to his fans and travel around the world, reaching more people than he ever could have normally. He also said he felt that grime was something that more and more people would be listening to in the future.
“I think that people are going to listen to grime more. I want to listen to other genres of music. I want to inspire people who make all kinds of music, people who are with record labels who tell them what to do and they don’t feel like themselves. I want people to get out of these deals because of Skepta. I want to get into people’s heads but I’m not signed, I’m still independent.”
While Skepta was very gracious about his win, David Bowie fans, and even some critics, were still left dismayed that Blackstar failed to win album of the year. The Metro featured tweets from disgruntled Bowie fans saying they were very disappointed over the loss as there would never be another Bowie record out to be nominated for this, or any other award. However, one fan went on record as saying that David didn’t necessarily need awards as he had left such a “rich musical legacy” behind.
What do you think? Are you happy with Skepta’s win or do you think David Bowie should have won the Mercury Prize?
[Featured Image by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images]