Craig David, the poster boy of UK garage and R&B, has capped a huge comeback year by winning best male act at the 2016 Mobo awards, as organisers faced embarrassment after an award was given to the wrong group.
Mobo producers apologised after the award for best song was mistakenly given to R&B group WSTRN. Hosts Rickie Williams and Melvin Odoom were forced take to the stage an hour later to announce that “someone picked up the wrong envelope” and that the winner should have been MC Abra Cadabra for Robbery, featuring Krept & Konan. WSTRN were later awarded a Mobo for best newcomer.
Organisers blamed the mix-up on a “production error”.
David staved off competition from the likes of Skepta, Stormzy, Kano and Tinie Tempah for his first Mobo since 2001. That year he won in three categories following the release of his debut album Born To Do It, which featured hits such as 7 Days and Fill Me In.
The performer subsequently relocated to Miami to work as a DJ and songwriter, but his newest and sixth album, Following My Intuition, last month claimed him a UK No 1 spot for the first time in 16 years.
David, who performed at Friday night’s Mobo awards ceremony at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro alongside acts such as Wiley, Professor Green and Clean Bandit, can add his ninth Mobo victory to three Ivor Novellos and 12 Brit awards.
In the 15 years since his debut, David released four albums but none achieved the success of his original. For a long time the artist was also blighted by Leigh Francis’s Bo’ Selecta! parody of him, which he has admitted was detrimental to his status in the music industry. But when he finally appeared on 1Xtra last year, ad-libbing Fill Me In over Skrillex and Diplo’s beat for Where Are U Now?, he became an internet sensation for all the right reasons, and has since performed with Major Lazer at Alexandra Palace, and at Fabric, Ibiza Rocks and Glastonbury.
It was a disappointing year at the Mobos for Skepta, however, who had eyes pinned on him after he triumphed at the Mercury Prize with his album Konnichiwa, beating acts such as Radiohead, David Bowie and the 1975. Skepta lost in all three Mobo categories he was nominated in, including best male act, best grime act, and best album. In the latter category, it was his fellow grime MC Kano who was victorious with Made in the Manor, his first LP in six years, which peaked at No 8 in the UK charts and earned him four Mobo nominations this year.
Founded in 1996, the Mobo (Music of Black Origin) awards celebrate the creation and performance of black music. They have been the subject of criticism in previous years for rewarding the work of white, mainstream pop artists such as Sam Smith and Jessie J. For the second year running, the 2016 nominations were a nod to grime in a mark of growing mainstream acknowledgement of the genre, which was developed in east London in the early 2000s and has its roots in UK garage and jungle.
Grime artist Lady Leshurr beat Laura Mvula, Katy B, and Nao to win the best female act category. It was the second Mobo nomination for the 27-year-old, who is working on her debut album. The rapper Chip also won in the best grime act category, which was introduced by the Mobos in 2014.
The wins come after the BBC Radio 1 boss, Chris Price, predicted this year that grime would be the UK’s next “big cultural export”. In an interview with the Guardian, he said it felt “like international eyes are on the genre”.
As evidence, Stormzy’s freestyle single Shut Up beat The X Factor winner Louisa Johnson to the No 1 spot in the UK singles chart last December. This summer, grime collective Boy Better Know – which includes Skepta – headlined London’s Wireless festival, and last month Dizzee Rascal performed his seminal 2003 grime album Boy in Da Corner in its entirety at a special show in London.
“It feels like a second chance – doing it the right way,” Kano has said of grime’s resurgence. “We don’t want to make it to a mainstream audience by doing just anything. Let’s not hide the fact we’re British, when in the past we have, with American accents.”
Michael Kiwanuka, whose soul-infused album Love & Hate was also nominated in the best album category, also said this year felt like “a good moment for black music being recognised in the mainstream” and pointed to the popularity of grime, not just in the UK mainstream but across the world.
“You can’t really escape it,” Kiwanuka said. “Up until now, grime has been pushed to one side and not seen as relevant. It’s always been credible but people are finally sitting up and taking notice. So it’s a good year, I think, and good to be a part of it.”
Other winners at this year’s Mobos include rising star Nadia Rose, whose music video Skwod won in the best video category; Drake, who won best international act; and Section Boyz, who won best hip hop act.
Songwriter and producer Ms Dynamite and Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams were also given the paving the way awards, honouring their status as leaders in their field who are inspiring future generations.
The full list of winners
Best male act – Craig David
Best female act – Lady Leshurr
Best newcomer – WSTRN
Best album – Kano ‘Made In The Manor’
Best hip hop act – Section Boyz
Best song – Abra Cadabra ft Krept & Konan ‘Robbery (remix)
Best video – Nadia Rose ‘Skwod’ (Directed by Reece Proctol)
Best R&B/soul – Shakka
Best grime act (in association with BBC Radio 1Xtra) – Chip
Best international act – Drake
Best jazz act – Esperanza Spalding
Best gospel act – Guvna B
Best reggae act – Popcaan
Best African act – Wiz Kid
Paving the way – Nicola Adams and Ms Dynamite