Grime artist Skepta has been announced as the winner of the Mercury Prize, the UK’s most prestigious music award.
The north London-born singer won the award and the £25,000 prize for his fourth studio album Konnichiwa at the ceremony at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London, on Thursday night.
The album was released on Skepta’s Boy Better Know record label which he co-founded with his brother JME in 2005 and was described by industry figures as “confident, funny, clever, scary, personal and political”.
He beat the bookies’ favourite, David Bowie, who would have become the first posthumous winner of the prize for his album Blackstar.
Speaking after the announcement, he said: “For everyone who knows what it takes to put an album together it’s so much more than making the music, everyone who was there for me when I was going through depressed times.
“We just did this for us, but the love is very appreciated.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a grime revolution – this is a really good time for grime but I think this is a revolution for freedom.
“Not just in music. So many people are getting up by themselves making things work online, using the same acumen if you was working for a big company to just do it yourself.”
Blackstar – which explored the themes of illness, death and heaven – was released in January on the star’s 69th birthday and just two days before he died from cancer.
Judge Jarvis Cocker – who won a Mercury Prize with his band Pulp in 1996 – said the choice came down to Bowie or Skepta.
He said the panel decided that “if Bowie was looking down” he would want Skepta to win.
The other artists vying for the prize were Radiohead for A Moon Shaped Pool – the fifth time the band had been nominated; Laura Mvula for The Dreaming; Bat For Lashes for The Bride; The 1975 for I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It; Making Time by Jamie Woon; Made In The Manor by Kano; Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka; Adore Life by the Savages; Channel The Spirits by The Comet Is Coming; Anohni for Hopelessness.
A Bowie tribute was planned for the ceremony featuring a performance of his track Lazarus by Dexter star Michael C Hall, who is set to launch a Bowie stage production in London next month.
The Mercury Prize was established in 1992.