As a self confessed music junkie, it’s difficult to muster any excitement for the upcoming BRIT Awards airing on tonight (February 21) in the U.K.
My disregard is heightened by the fact that the ‘Urban Music’ category that would have surged my slightest interest in the award ceremony has been kicked to the curb worst than a Valentine’s Day reject.
For those keeping tabs on this quintessential British awards ceremony, it’s clear this year’s nominations were controversial however, the overriding debate has to be the nonexistent ‘Urban Music’ category and the altogether dismissal of chart topping R&B and Grime artists such as Wretch 32, who has arguably been robbed of the chance of winning the music accolade.
The British Record Industry Trust, stylised as the BRIT’s, came into formation in 1977 to celebrate popular music in the U.K. but much like the social changes our island’s seen — ie. the london housing crisis, Bob Marley and the Wailers perform at the Rainbow Theatre for the first time and the emergence of the Punk Rock scene in Britain — the sound of pop music has changed dramatically. Yesteryear icons the Beatles, Culture Club, Queen and Phil Colins are now missing from the charts and with the rise of iTunes even the measuring tools we use to determine what’s hot has evolved.
Urban music’s popularity was so evident in 2003 that the BRIT’s added the ‘Urban Music’ category to the award criteria, allowing the likes of Ms. Dynamite, Joss Stone and Lemar to each walk away with a gong under this new alias over a three year period. Now with the extinction of the ‘Urban’ category, what does this mean for urban music?
Dizzee Rascal is perhaps one of the biggest artists to emerge from the U.K. Urban music scene but even with winning the iconic Mercury prize in 2004 for his highly acclaimed album ‘Boy In Da Corner’, Dizzee only received a BRIT Award in 2010 for ‘Best British Male.’ The accolade was detached from his Grime sound because it no longer had a definite umbrella to fall under. Several years before in 2000, despite having a number one album in ‘Born to Do It’ and seven BRIT nominations, Craig David famously walked away with nothing in 2001. Adding fuel to the fire, somehow David’s string of top 10 hits including ‘Fill me In’ and ‘Walking Away’ were still not enough to warrant an ‘Urban Music’ category.
Tinie Tempah, on the other hand, stormed the BRIT Award nominations in 2010, winning ‘Best Breakthrough Act’ and ‘Best Single’ for his beast of track ‘Pass Out’ – yet once again, the ‘Urban Music’ category was nowhere to be seen.
Dizzee Rascal, Tinie Tempah and Craig David have each successfully carved out international fame with little to no influence from the BRIT’s. But with the famed award show failing to give Urban music any love, this leaves the MOBO Awards, an acronym for “Music of black origin,” as the single award body to take the floor and if Urban artists want to achieve international success, chances are they’re going to need much more than the MOBO’s to bolster their music careers because truthfully, it doesn’t draw the same international attention and it’s nowhere near as widely recognised.
Maybe the void left by the BRIT’s, and dare I say it, the neglect of the Urban category signals the arrival of an award ceremony that is more relevant and representative of the music dominating the charts for over a decade. After all we have Urban music to thank for the likes of NDubz and JLS – just what would the charts be without them?
– Reah Brown