The grime artist from north London was named the 2016 winner at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith this evening, beating out competition from bookies’ favourite David Bowie, whose final album ‘Blackstar’ was tipped for a posthumous win, as well as artists including Anohni, Radiohead and Savages.
Asked what he hopes young people will take from his popular victory, Skepta told NME shortly after collecting his award: “I want them to be themselves.”
The Tottenham-born star continued: “When old people are telling them to be quiet, and old people are telling them they’re not right, and people who just don’t understand kids are just saying stuff to them [to suit] their own boxed-in lives, I want the kids to be like, ‘No. Do you know what, Skepta showed me that I just need to do and say how I feel. Because you only get one chance to say how you feel, you know.”
Urging all young people to make sure their voice is heard, whether they write music or not, Skepta also told NME: “Art is expression. I keep repeating, even if you don’t do music, express yourself. The only regret you’re gonna have is all the stuff you didn’t say that you really feel. So to all the kids: I want you to be free, be strong – you’re right, and just do you.”
Skepta is the second grime artist to win the Mercury Prize after Dizzee Rascal won with his debut ‘Boy In Da Corner’ in 2003.
Among this year’s judging panel were Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, producer Naughty Boy and singer Jessie Ware.
Cocker, who announced the winner, said that David Bowie would have approved of panel’s decision. “We as a jury decided that if David Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight if he would want the 2016 prize to go to Skepta,” he told the audience.
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