“When people didn’t recognise us, we recognised ourselves”, stated Sir Steve McQueen as he accepted his Inspiration Award at the MOBO Awards last week. Although his words perfectly encapsulate what the ceremony represents, they also held a deeper meaning - summing up the Black experience in 2020 whilst giving viewers a window into how many have been living their entire lives.
Driven by culture, community and creativity: the MOBOs seeks to uplift entertainment inspired by and for the Black British population, but its importance was more than necessary this year, following an onslaught of movements and protests that have, and still are shocking the world. From the global #BlackLivesMatter movement to the #EndSars protests in Nigeria and Uganda’s political turmoil caused by Bobi Wine’s arrest, the phrase ‘Africa is Bleeding’ is more apt than the diaspora in Britain would like to admit. Tributes were offered through performances from Kojey Radical, Tiwa Savage and Ms. Banks - who also honoured the passing of YouTuber Nicole Thea and baby Reign.
Not only did the ceremony pay cultural homage through recognising what is happening in African and Caribbean countries, it also celebrated how their native sounds have shaped Black British music and culture. Appearances from Davido and Mayorkun proved just how much sway Afrobeats has within the UK, whilst Buju Banton took home the trophy for Best Reggae Act, highlighting his revered Special Live Performance with BBC 1Xtra.
The MOBOs followed suit behind the likes of the BETs in creating a Black digital award show filled with iconic moments, standout performances and a well-deserved acknowledgement of talent. Hosted by Chunkz, Maya Jama and guest award-givers (including founder of the ceremony, Kanya King) there was never a dull moment despite the lack of physical audience. In between the drillagrams and the heartfelt moments stood a reminder of the promising emerging acts across British entertainment. Nines may have stolen the show with 5 nominations on top of bagging the prestigious Album of The Year and Best Hip Hop Act accolades, but it appears music is in safe and exciting hands watching Young T and Bugsey, Aitch, NSG and Headie One collect their awards.
Although Mahalia collected her MOBO for Best Female Act with a look of surprise and disbelief, her acceptance was expected for most viewers given the reception and critical acclaim of her debut album, Love and Compromise. In fact, Mahalia as well as the other women nominated in the category (Lianne La Havas, Ms. Banks, Tiana Major9, Darkoo and FKA Twigs) are an example of how women championed the music industry throughout 2020, with the performances from the night further supporting their hearty and substantial contributions to the scene. Head and shoulders above the rest stood Shaybo’s rendition of Dobale, with hypewoman Remi Burgz feeding the people at home playful adlibs that complemented The Queen of The South’s gritty and powerful production. Tiana Major9 also deserves a special mention- experiencing a ‘full circle’ moment by giving back to the institution that birthed her career.
The night wasn’t completely centred around esteeming artists and recognising the roots that make entertainment what it is today; it was also about laying deeper foundations and structures for those to come. Enter Mobolise: an online platform designed to connect Black talent, with favourable career opportunities, in promising and progressive organisations. With hopes to better diversify entertainment as well as the business world, The MOBOs is simply a launching pad for a far bigger cause. “This wasn’t just an Awards show, this is an empowering show with a purpose that represents opportunity over inequality, that represents pride for an audience that often feels marginalised, that represents achievement against all odds'', said King, whilst wrapping up the award show. “There will be new artists watching the show and because of it, and their lives and those of their families may be forever changed. Roll on our 25th anniversary next year... Let’s get ready to MOBOLISE!”
2020 MOBO AWARDS WINNERS
BEST MALE ACT
BEST FEMALE ACT
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
NINES – ‘CRABS IN A BUCKET’
SONG OF THE YEAR
YOUNG T & BUGSEY FEAT. HEADIE ONE – ‘DON’T RUSH’
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
NSG – ‘LUPITA’ (DIRECTED BY KEVIN HUDSON)
BEST R&B/SOUL ACT
BEST HIP HOP ACT
BEST GRIME ACT
BEST INTERNATIONAL ACT
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TV SHOW/FILM
MICHEAL WARD AS MARCO – ‘BLUE STORY’
BEST MEDIA PERSONALITY
BEST ALBUM (2017 – 2019)
ELLA MAI – ‘ELLA MAI’
BEST AFRICAN ACT
BEST REGGAE ACT
BEST GOSPEL ACT
BEST JAZZ ACT
EGO ELLA MAY