Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 14:26 UK

Mobo stars enjoy massive year

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Dizzee Rascal at V Festival
Dizzee Rascal is on course for his third number one with Holiday

In previous years, the Mobo Awards have struggled to be taken seriously, often shunned by big names and in thrall to the US, whose hip-hop and R&B stars have overshadowed home-grown talent.

This year, though, is being hailed as the year that British urban music has finally come of age.

On Sunday, Dizzee Rascal will notch up his third number one single in just over a year. Fellow MC Tinchy Stryder has scored two chart-toppers in recent months.

They both emerged from the pirate radio ranks of east London and broke out of the capital's insular grime scene to become two of the biggest pop stars in the country.

Alongside them at the top of the Mobo shortlist are hip-hop trio N-Dubz and 18-year-old rapper Chipmunk, both from north London.

N-Dubz won the Mobo for best newcomer in 2007, while Chipmunk took the same award in 2008. Both have four nominations this year and have earned star status among young fans across the UK.

"This is what I've been waiting for," says Mobo organiser Kanya King, who has been running the event since 1995.

"You only have to look at the nominations to see that British artists are getting number ones.

Tinchy Stryder at V Festival
Tinchy Stryder is up for best UK act, best song and best album

"This is it, finally. All along, when I've been trying to get the support, people have been saying 'there's not an audience for this music'.

"Well finally we can say that there is, and they [the artists] are getting the recognition they so deserve."

In the past, big British winners like Amy Winehouse and Corinne Bailey Rae have been rewarded for individual achievements, but were far from ushering in exciting new sounds or scenes.

In the last 12 months, though, a movement has centred around acts that rub shoulders and collaborate, and it seems Dizzee and Tinchy have cracked the formula of how to take urban music to the masses.

They have softened the edges of grime, a British genre that emerged from garage, drum 'n' bass and hip-hop, fused it with dance music that appealed to white club crowds, and harnessed the power of big pop choruses.

The result is a fusion of electronic pop and hip-hop that has broken out of the capital's insular clubs, and has been influenced by the US but does not blindly follow.

Jay Sean at Mobos 2008
Jay Sean, who sang at last year's Mobos, is riding high in the US charts

"We always have reflected the scene that's out there," King said at the Mobo nomination launch on Wednesday.

"That's all we can do. In the past it has been American names. Tonight we've got a reflection of the British music scene. The British artists are dominating the charts, and deservedly so."

The last two years have also seen UK artists finding success when taking their music across the Atlantic.

Londoner Jay Sean, nominated for best male Mobo last year, is currently at number three in the US chart.

He is enjoying a hit with Lil' Wayne after signing to the rapper's label Cash Money Records.

Last year, Estelle won two Mobos after her duet with Kanye West, American Boy, was a hit around the world.

Kanye's latest protege Mr Hudson, aka Ben Hudson from Birmingham, has also been riding high after the US superstar co-produced his album.

It's been one of the biggest years in the national charts for music of black origin
Reggie Yates
BBC Radio 1 DJ and Mobo host

And Sway, who beat US heavyweights 50 Cent and The Game to win the hip-hop award at the Mobos in 2005, has been signed by US rapper Akon.

"It's been one of the biggest years in the national charts for music of black origin," says BBC Radio 1 DJ and Mobos host Reggie Yates.

"The charts this year heavily reflect what's going on in the UK and there are a lot of UK artists that are making waves.

"Someone like Chipmunk is a great example - he won best newcomer last year and now he's signed a major deal and he's had chart success.

"Tinchy Stryder was at the nominations last year and now he's had two number ones. It's been an amazing story for a lot of these UK artists."

The scattergun approach for selecting Mobo nominees and the relatively shallow talent pool are still problems.

Glasgow move

The perennial question is - how do you define music of black origin?

The 2009 shortlist ranges from pop stars like Lady GaGa and Mariah Carey to soft jazz singers like Madeleine Peyroux and Diana Krall.

In a symbolic move, this year's ceremony will move out of the capital for the first time, to be staged in Glasgow.

When it comes to the problem of attracting stars, the move may make things even more tricky. Last year, two of the biggest British winners - Leona Lewis and Dizzee - did not turn up.

"It's a shame that their schedules and their touring didn't allow for them to be here," Kanya King said at the time.

"Hey, there's always next year."

The ceremony, at the end of September, will prove whether the Mobos have moved on.



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