Response: The Mobos are no 'whitewash'. We celebrate the influence of black artists

Jessie J and Adele are great artists. Why shouldn't they be nominated for our awards?

Dan Hancox chose to undermine the achievements of the nominated artists for the Mobo awards, who have done so well and have been flying the flag for British music internationally (What is 'music of black origin' in 2011?, 2 September). The article seemed to focus on two "white" artists, namely Jessie J and Adele, in a nominations list of over 60 artists, the majority of whom happen to be black.

Hancox writes: "It's not the colour of Jessie J's face that's the problem, so much as the sounds emanating from it." To imply that Jessie J is not "urban" or "music of black origin" is inaccurate. Her vocal style is steeped in R&B and soul influences. She has frequently cited artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys as major influences on her vocal style and songwriting. Songs like Do It Like a Dude are urban-based, granted that they may be at the more commercial end of the spectrum.

The article goes on: "With Jessie J leading the 2011 nominations with five ... and Adele weighing in with four, eyebrows have been raised, with the Times describing it as a 'whitewash'." Jessie J and Adele are arguably two of the stand-out artists of the year and, with both drawing influences from the music that the Mobo awards were established to recognise and promote, one would surely expect them to be well represented in the nominations. Should they be left out because of the colour of their skin?

Strangely Wretch 32 and Tinie Tempah, who both tied with Adele on four nominations, did not get a mention in Hancox's article. Urban music is indeed enjoying its most successful period, with the charts being dominated by its acts. Organisations such as Mobo have helped elevate this music.

Hancox also suggests the awards don't support up-and-coming black music. He quotes Butterz label boss Elijah, who says: "It's really only for people who want to propel themselves into the commercial arena. If you don't want to be like JLS or Chipmunk it's not going to help you, that's the sad thing about it."

However, among this year's nominees for best UK R&B/soul is Marsha Ambrosious, one of the most successful British exports in recent years, with a No 2 album on the US Billboard charts. Despite this feat, Marsha has been largely overlooked by mainstream UK media and awards shows.

The article goes on to ask if the Mobo awards are "a celebration of colour-blind, already successful pop music? Or just the Brit awards in a baseball cap?" This misrepresents both the Brit awards and Mobo: with the exception of Tinie Tempah and Plan B, urban music was not heavily represented in this year's Brit nominations.

Mobo categories include best African act, best reggae, best jazz, best gospel, best UK hip-hop/grime and best UK R&B soul. The Brit awards are a British music institution and do what they do extremely well. However, Mobo's list of nominees only demonstrates the uniqueness of our awards in the landscape of British music.

• This article was amended on 9 September 2011. The original had a draft version of the headline and standfirst.


Chris O'Gorman

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jessie J named best UK act as she collects four awards at Mobos

Price Tag singer is big winner at 16th annual ceremony, with Adele, Tinie Tempah and Rihanna also honoured

Kieran Yates

05, Oct, 2011 @10:16 PM

Article image
Mobos: what is 'music of black origin' in 2011?
The large number of white faces on this year's shortlist has prompted a lot of people to ask an obvious question

Dan Hancox

01, Sep, 2011 @7:00 PM

Article image
UK music sales decline for seventh successive year despite downloads

Combined digital and physical album sales fall by 5.6% but British acts account for half of 2011's top 10 selling records

Sam Jones and agencies

02, Jan, 2012 @7:09 PM

Article image
Don't dismiss the Mobos
Chris O'Gorman: A recent Guardian article asked whether the Mobo awards are still relevant. But the criticisms were wide of the mark – thanks to the Mobos the charts are dominated by urban acts

Chris O'Gorman, editor

05, Sep, 2011 @3:00 PM

Article image
Mobo awards no longer represent the best of black music | Orantes Moore
Orantes Moore: In attempting to appeal to a mass audience, the Mobos have diluted their unique selling point – raw, black musical talent

Orantes Moore

07, Oct, 2011 @3:29 PM

Article image
Mobo awards 2014: Sam Smith and Krept and Konan lead nominations
London artists vie for best male, best song and best album awards, as Professor Green admits rap has become ‘less cool’

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

23, Sep, 2014 @3:30 PM

Article image
Jessie J tops Mobo list
Brit school graduate favourite to win a number of awards after being nominated for best newcomer, best album and best song and video

Alexandra Topping

31, Aug, 2011 @11:01 PM

Amina Taylor on the Mobo awards

Amina Taylor: Black music - and all the branches of this musical tree - continues to dominate the dancefloors and charts in the UK. Yet it is still seen as 'niche'. The only awards ceremony that puts the music up where it belongs is the Mobos.

Amina Taylor

11, Sep, 2006 @10:53 AM

Article image
Mobos: Craig David crowned best male act
Artist caps comeback year with first Mobo since 2001, as organisers apologise for giving best song award to wrong act

Nadia Khomami

05, Nov, 2016 @11:39 AM

Mobos move to Liverpool
Teenager Ben Osu has convinced organisers in an online campaign to move the awards to his hometown, writes Xan Brooks

Xan Brooks

08, Jun, 2010 @9:40 PM