Rapper Nines and R&B singer Mahalia are the biggest winners at the 2020 Mobo awards, returning for the first time since 2017 to celebrate music of Black origin.
Nines won album of the year for Crabs in a Bucket, and best hip-hop act. It’s the culmination of a successful year for the north-west London rapper, who was nominated five times at the Mobos and topped the UK album chart in September.
Mahalia won best female act and best R&B/soul act, following her acclaimed 2019 album Love and Compromise and her 2020 EP Isolation Tapes, recorded partly during the first coronavirus lockdown. She can now look to the 2021 Grammys, where she is nominated in the best R&B performance category for All I Need with Jacob Collier and Ty Dolla Sign.
Drill rapper Headie One was named best male act, beating Stormzy, J Hus, Nines and more – he topped the UK charts with his album Edna in October and spent nine weeks in the Top 5 with his track Ain’t It Different. He also featured on the Mobo song of the year, Don’t Rush by Nottingham pop-rap duo Young T & Bugsey, which was voted for by the public. Another public vote winner was Mancunian rapper Aitch, who picked up best newcomer.
The Mobo awards announced it would go on hiatus for a year in 2018 but its return was later postponed until 2020. Founder Kanya King, who set up the awards in 1996, told the Guardian last week regarding the time off: “We were asking ourselves: is Mobo still needed?” The ceremony marked its fallow years with a one-off award for the best album released in the period, given to R&B singer Ella Mai for her self-titled debut that became a huge US hit in 2018.
Steve McQueen, the director and visual artist whose BBC TV series Small Axe documents Black British life, was given the inspiration award. “This is an extraordinary prize,” he said. “Thank you so much. The Mobo awards for me is part of the idea of Small Axe. When people didn’t want to recognise us, we recognised ourselves and that’s given me the inspiration to go forward.”
King hailed the awards as “an empowering show with a purpose that represents opportunity over inequality, that represents pride for an audience that often feels marginalised, that represents achievement against all odds,” alluding to the racial inequality she castigated in an open letter to the UK music industry in June.
Hosted by Maya Jama and Chunkz (the comedian-musician who was also voted best media personality by the public), the livestreamed ceremony featured performances by Headie One (featuring M Huncho) and Young T & Bugsey, plus stars that traversed styles across the Black diaspora: rappers Ms Banks, Kojey Radical and Shaybo, dancehall vocalist Stylo G and soul singer Tiana Major9. From outside the UK, R&B singer HER, nominated for three Grammys including song of the year, performed her song Damage, while two of Nigeria’s biggest pop stars also appeared: Tiwa Savage and Davido.
2020 Mobo award winners
Album of the year: Nines – Crabs in a Bucket
Best male act: Headie One
Best female act: Mahalia
Song of the year (public vote): Young T & Bugsey – Don’t Rush (feat Headie One)
Best newcomer (public vote): Aitch
Video of the year: NSG – Lupita
Best R&B/soul act: Mahalia
Best hip-hop act: Nines
Best grime act (public vote): JME
Best international act (public vote): Burna Boy
Best performance in a TV show/film: Micheal Ward as Marco, Blue Story
Best media personality: Chunkz
Best album 2017-2019: Ella Mai – Ella Mai
Best African act: Wizkid
Best reggae act: Buju Banton
Best gospel act: CalledOut Music
Best jazz act: Ego Ella May
Best producer: Jae5
Inspiration award: Steve McQueen