The Kid Laroi named artist of the year at 2021 National Indigenous Music awards

JK-47 claims award for debut album, Budjerah crowned best new talent and Miiesha wins song of the year for Damaged

The Kid Laroi has scooped the top prize in the 2021 National Indigenous Music awards after an extraordinary year for the Kamilaroi rapper, which saw him storm up Australian and international charts, open the VMAs and collaborate with Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.

The 18-year-old, who is now based in Los Angeles, took home the artist of the year award, beating nominees Sycco, Birdz, Miiesha, Baker Boy and Jessica Mauboy.

The Kid Laroi (real name Charlton Howard) grew up in Waterloo in Sydney. He got his first break in 2018 as a finalist in Triple J’s Unearthed High competition and then in 2019 when he was signed to Grade A Productions, the labelmate of the late emo rapper Juice Wrld, who mentored the teenager.

Earlier this year, on the back of his album F*ck Love (Savage), he became the youngest solo artist to have a No 1 album on the Aria charts. In September, he opened the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, performing his mega-hit Stay with Justin Bieber. The Kid Laroi is set to tour Australia for the first time next May and June as part of his international End of the World tour.

Sunday evening’s reimagined Nima ceremony was broadcast over two hours on Triple J, Double J, Triple J Unearthed and via the National Indigenous Radio Service in partnership with Triple J’s First Nations show Blak Out. The event was scheduled for August at the Darwin Amphitheatre but was cancelled due to Covid. Sunday’s broadcast was presented by Yuin rapper Nooky and Triple J’s Karla Ranby and featured performances by electronic duo Electric Fields and this year’s Triple J Unearthed Nima competition winner Tilly Tjala Thomas.

The album of the year award went to Bundjalung rapper JK-47, also known as Jacob Paulson, for his debut LP Made For This. He was last year’s Triple J Unearthed Nima competition winner.

Made For This explores intergenerational trauma, new fatherhood, racism and colonialism, and was up against Tia Gostelow’s Chrysalis, The Kid Laroi’s F*ck Love, Leah Flanagan’s Colour by Number and Benny Walker’s Chosen Line for the coveted album award.

JK-47 has taken home the Nima album of the year award.
JK-47 won the Nima album of the year award. Photograph: Sean Foster/Getty Images

Gela, the highly anticipated debut album by Yolŋu hip-hop artist Baker Boy – who took home the Nimas’ artist of the year award in 2019 and 2020 – was not considered in the 2021 shortlist as his album was released on 15 October, months after the cut-off day for nominations.

But Baker Boy (real name Danzal Baker) didn’t go home empty-handed on Sunday, edging out Budjerah, Troy Cassar-Daley, Sycco and Tia Gostelow to win film clip of the year for his high-energy single Ride, featuring his cousin Yirrmal – the pair’s first collaboration since Marryuna in 2017.

The best new talent of the year award went to 19-year-old Coodjinburra musician Budjerah (born Budjerah Slabb), whose soulful R&B and debut self-titled EP has been generating significant buzz.

The Aria-winning Aṉangu and Torres Strait Islander neo-soul singer Miiesha, who won last year’s Nima for best new talent, picked up the gong for song of the year for her single Damaged, about her fractured relationship with her mother.

“I wrote Damaged about a situation between me and my mum; we’ve always had a real rough patch since I was a kid,” Miiesha said as she accepted the award. “I definitely found healing through it; it actually helped me a lot and it helped her, too.”

Mak Mak Marranunggu rapper J-Milla claimed the Archie Roach Foundation award, which rewards up-and-coming talent. Presenting the award on Sunday evening, Roach said: “I really like what [J-Milla] says about his people … I think we’ve got some great rappers here [in Australia].”

Galpu singer Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and composer Netanela Mizrahi received the Indigenous language award for The Djari Project, a collaboration featuring exquisite choral arrangements in Indigenous languages. The community clip of the year award went to Kakadu Collective and Victor Rostron for Mayali, a collaboration with young people in Jabiru.

Murri singer-songwriter and member of the stolen generations Kev Carmody, whose music career spans more than three decades, was inducted into the hall of fame.

Carmody said he was “proud, humbled and honoured to accept the award on behalf of all of us. Past, present and of course future … I’m so proud of the young ones. It might be rap, it might be hip hop, it might be reggae; we’re still expressing [ourselves] through the oral cultural traditions, which is songs and storytelling, it’s just in a musical sense.

“I can sit back now. I’ve played my four chords and that’s it.”

Electric Fields performed a rendition of Carmody’s From Little Things Big Things Grow, a protest song he co-wrote with Paul Kelly.

Kelly also paid tribute to his friend and collaborator, who he met in the 1980s “singing polemics that tore strips off the establishment”. He described Carmody’s body of work as “one of Australia’s enduring cultural treasurers”.


Janine Israel

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Arias 2021: Genesis Owusu, the Kid Laroi and Budjerah dominate Australia’s biggest music awards
Australia’s most popular music awards night was a celebration of diverse artists – but relegated to a mostly pre-recorded stream for the second year in a row

Kelly Burke

24, Nov, 2021 @9:39 AM

Article image
The Kid Laroi, Genesis Owusu and the Wiggles dominate Australian music awards
Kamilaroi rapper won Apra song of the year for Stay and was ‘stoked’ to be on his way home for a national tour in May and June

Michael Sun

03, May, 2022 @11:30 AM

Article image
Gurrumul Yunupingu named artist of the year at National Indigenous Music awards
Artist accepts trophy, his fifth, from wheelchair as Stanley Gawurra Gaykamangu takes out four other awards

Steph Harmon

07, Aug, 2016 @5:25 AM

Article image
‘I missed out on being a kid’: The Kid Laroi on fame, fans and coming home to Australia
The 18-year-old Kamilaroi rapper, whose fans include Elton John and Justin Bieber, is back in Sydney on his world tour – and dealing with the ‘obviously insane’ reception

Michael Sun

27, May, 2022 @8:01 PM

Article image
Ziggy Ramo: Sugar Coated Lies review – bold, uncompromising hip-hop that takes a new path
Released independently on 26 January, the artist’s second album has more mainstream appeal than his first – but is as unapologetically political as ever

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen

27, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Flume wins song of the year at 2023 Apra awards for Say Nothing
Same track that topped Triple J’s Hottest 100 takes top gong, with Rüfüs Du Sol, the Kid Laroi and Sampa the Great also winning

Michael Sun

27, Apr, 2023 @12:03 PM

Article image
AC/DC, Avalanches, and Pnau collab with Ladyhawke again: new Australian music for January
Each month we add 20 new songs to our Spotify playlist. Read about 10 of our favourites here – and subscribe on Spotify

Nathan Jolly and Guardian Australia

05, Jan, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
Aria awards 2022: Rüfüs Du Sol and Amyl and the Sniffers among top nominees
Dance group leads with seven nominations, with Flume, the Kid Laroi, Baker Boy and Vance Joy also winning multiple nods

Kelly Burke

11, Oct, 2022 @11:25 PM

Article image
‘It’s not normal, what I’ve seen’: the rise and rise of rapper Tasman Keith
The Gumbaynggirr artist counts one Peter Garrett among his fans. But when success came, he found himself overwhelmed with traumatic memories

Katie Cunningham

08, Jul, 2022 @8:00 PM

Article image
Aria awards 2020: Lime Cordiale, Tame Impala and Sampa the Great lead nominations
Ceremony will be held at Sydney’s Star casino and broadcast live, but without a physical audience

Stephanie Convery

12, Oct, 2020 @11:30 PM