He beat the likes of Bowie, Radiohead, and Anohni
Cai Trefor

23:08 15th September 2016

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"It came down to two black stars" said Jarvis Cocker as he described the difficult decision the jurors had to make on who would be the winner. The Pulp singer said that if David Bowie was looking down on us now then it would be Skepta that he'd want to win it.

Konnichiwa, which reached number two in the UK album chart upon its release, beat a strong list of contenders including Radiohead, Bowie, and The 1975 to clinch the prize at the 25th Mercury Prize ceremony. It remains the UK and Irish music's most prestigious award.

As Skepta was announced winner, his friends and family, who were sat with with him at a table down the front of the Hammersmith Apollo, naturally were ecstatic and champagne began spraying everywhere. They all embraced each other before climbing up the stage and taking the award.

"Thanks, thanks, thanks," he said before catching his breath and thanking everyone behind the scenes on the record.

Especially poignant was the tribute he paid to his parents, who joined him on stage to collect the award. His mother danced on the spot with giddy excitement when he thanked her which got a huge applause from the audience.

Skepta also thanked the people that helped him out of dark times and paid tribute to friend Lukey Maxwell who was murdered in London at just 22 years of age.

He also proceeded to explain that he's been doing music for a long and time and has persisted independently, without label backing. He said the journey has been for his friends and family, implying he'd be doing this regardless of whether he was hugely famous. But he's seriously appreciating the love.

During the evening the winner played three times. He played ‘Shutdown’ once when he was among the 12 finalists, and again when he was shortlisted in the final six alongside, Radiohead, Bowie, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura Mvula, and The 1975.

After collecting the award, which in addition to a trophy he'll keep with pride for the rest of his life includes £25,000 cash, he played for the final time. His whole crew danced on stage together as they played 'Man'. The track opens with a sample from the awesome Queens Of The Stone Age first album opener, 'Regular John' and sets the precedent for so much raw, fearless energy to follow. 

Most of the finalists played live. Radiohead, however, couldn’t make it and to their credit gave a live session film clip. Meanwhile, Bowie’s song ‘Lazarus’ from the album Blackstar was performed by Michael C Hall who plays Bowie in the Lazarus musical that's opening in London soon as a successful run in New York continues.

Konnichiwa features guest appearances from Jme, Boy Better Know, D Double E, Novelist, Wiley, Chip, Pharrell Williams, ASAP Nast and Young Lord. The energy in the room was palpable when it won. This is a deserved winner and as the evenings celebrations continue no one is arguing.

The way Jarvis Cocker justified the decision made it all the more special. He put Bowie's respect for new artist as one of the deciding factors on who should get it. It was a fitting tribute to the legend and in many ways was more honorary than giving him the award posthumously. Bowie would have been proud of everything that happened tonight. New music is in good stead and in many ways it's thanks to his musical genius.

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Photo: Shirlaine Forrest