The DJ and radio presenter reckons the BRIT Awards got it right this time round. Here, he explains why
“For me, the 2018 BRIT Awards were the most historic thus far. Konan [from London rap duo Krept and Konan] agrees, telling me: ‘The highlight for me watching the BRITs was seeing my bro Stormzy winning two awards and using his performance to talk about real issues that are happening.’
Previously, I’ve never felt any kind of attachment to the awards, apart from four key moments when the artists that I support were featured on the show: So Solid Crew, Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah winning their respective awards; and Kanye West bringing the majority of the grime scene on stage for the debut performance of ‘All Day’, which was a key milestone within grime history.
The ‘All Day’ performance was the most overt ‘fuck you’ to the mainstream, and a reality check for the music industry. It was a moment that fuelled the ascension of Skepta and Stormzy, whose ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Shut Up’ would echo the same ‘fuck you’ sentiment for the following 12 months until the BRIT Awards 2017, when independent artist Skepta was nominated for three awards and performed on the show, as was Stormzy.
A year later, Stormzy wins two of the coveted awards, and the nominations of Best Breakthrough Artist for Dave, J Hus, and Loyle Carner are wins for the grime and UK rap genres (even though neither won won the award).
It’s progression; the BRITs got it right without resorting to a token seasonal Urban category or a knee-jerk shared award, while the evolved creative merit of a self-sufficient scene – empowered by the savvy entrepreneurial use of social media and streaming – had arrived. Grime and UK rap are as much a part of the UK music industry as any other genre, if not more, as they are truly UK-specific. We are at a time where rap artists have found and defined their own voice, created their own rules, and demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that they are here to stay.
For the first time ever, it was dope to see so many rappers in attendance with seats at the tables. Stormzy, J Hus, Dave, Loyle Carner, Mist, Bugzy Malone, Tinie Tempah, Jaykae, Professor Green, Not3s, Yungen, Michaell Dapaah – and more – were all glo’d up, suited and booted. Stormzy’s wins were earned, whilst his performance was both historic and revolutionary. Like Kanye West in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the voice of the voiceless spoke out on national TV.
[South London rapper] Joe Grind tells me: “It made me feel proud to see local faces from our generation and sound of music being involved, nominated and actually win awards in this years BRITs. It shows that our music is not the violent racket that it has said to be in the past, but a form of art which works amazingly alongside other major genres of music.”
And [London MC] Yungen says: “I really enjoyed the BRITs because our culture was so well represented. Even though I wasn’t nominated, I felt it was important to support and be a part of history watching our kings & queens being celebrated for their talents.”
For all his enthusiasm, though, Konan points out that “the BRITs needs to nominate more than four rappers from our scene.”
Days after Stormzy’s performance, his lyrics were painted on the streets of Croydon. As Akala commented on Twitter, his performance at the 2018 BRIT awards was ‘one of the most iconic moments in UK music’.”
– DJ Semtex