Why Skepta’s Mercury win was the only real choice
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Last night, the Mercury Prize made a vital statement in selected the work of Skepta as the best album of the previous year, a statement that flies in the face of an on-going devastation of UK youth culture. We live in a nation that is increasingly divided (on age, on religion, on class) and racism is on the rise. Under 25s have had their prospects and aspirations shattered by years of anti-youth policies, and the last eight years have seen the ‘gentrification’ and homogenisation of culture progress at rampant levels – streets of Costa coffee shops, wine bars and expensive flats have replaced pubs and clubs that allow music culture thrive, and artists are priced out (and that’s just the capital). Award ceremonies in general are manifestation of fact our mainstream music industry is an exercise in playing it safe, run largely by white, middle-class men. Take the Brits complete lack of grime, or in fact much of any cultural note, as the case in point. Grime as a genre is the last truly unique music culture movement we have in the UK, something that has been born from its own location, with its own language, own sound. It speaks directly for people that have been largely ignored by popular culture, and it has smashed its way into national consciousness on its own term – it is the most ‘punk’ music we have right now. And Skepta is the embodiment of this, as an artist who has achieved huge success with no record label, refusing to do much press and not conforming to anything.
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