Singer songwriter Sampha took home one of the most coveted accolades in British music last night, the Mercury Prize. The esteemed panel of judges including Jamie Cullum, Marcus Mumford and DJ Mista Jam concluded that the RnB star’s stunning debut album Process was the album of the year, in one of the closest fought contests in recent years.
Kate Tempest was the bookie’s favourite to pinch the prize with her phenomenal Let Them Eat Chaos but Sampha managed to beat off competition from the poet and a host of household names. Also on the shortlist were Alt-J, Blossoms, Stormzy and a little known Suffolk singer by the name of Ed Sheeran.
Actor Idris Elba presented the gong in a glitzy night at Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. ‘British music is the best it’s ever been,’ the Luther star told the crowd before crowning Sampha as this year’s winner. Taking to the stage in an understated T-shirt and bomber jacket, the crooner said, ‘I feel like I’m dreaming a little bit. This is incredible.’
The 28 year old went on to dedicate the award to his parents.
‘They came over from Sierra Leone and just wanted to give us the best upbringing possible.’
The man himself has long been in the musical shadows. Though his vocals have featured on tracks by huge artists including Beyonce, Drake and Kanye West, Process is Sampha’s first solo LP. The album showcased his unique vocals and imaginative songwriting in a glorious fusion of modern RnB. If you haven’t already, have a listen below.
As well as critical recognition, Sampha received a cheque for a cool £25,000 and can expect a big boost in album sales. Previous winners including The xx, James Blake and Skepta have all enjoyed a boom in listener interest. In fact back in 2008, Elbow enjoyed a 700% increase in sales for their album The Seldom Seen Kid. Ed Sheeran has been the biggest to benefit from this year’s award so far with album sales for % (Divide) up by 4% since the shortlist was announced.
The Mercury Prize itself has been criticised by some for its potential negative artistic influence. Previous nominees have struggled with being thrown into the spotlight. Back in 2001, Gorillaz asked for their eponymous debut album to be removed from the shortlist after arguing the award is ‘like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity.’
Further criticism has also been levelled at the Prize’s lack of diversity with some genres being vastly underrepresented. Though the rules state all styles can be taken into consideration, popular genres like metal have often been overlooked in place of hip hop, electronica and folk.
One thing you certainly can’t argue with is the quality of this year’s shortlist. From the insightful rap of Loyle Carner to the genre hopping J Hus, the finalists highlight Britain’s position at the forefront of new music.
What did you think of this year’s result? Tweet us @ArtKompetes and let us know.