And The Winner is… Urban Music!

Last night, Tinie Tempah, real name Patrick Okogwu, won two Brit Awards chosen by the public vote at the O2 Arena in London. His face is all over the press this morning; the MC was voted Best British Breakthrough Act and won British Single for his debut track ‘Pass Out’. Accepting his first award, Tinie said: “I got a BRIT Award guys! I want to big up my mum, my family and God – and I want to big up all the fans. Thank you. Biggest Breakthrough baby!”

Tinie Tempah excitedly jumped on stage to receive his second award, but when calls for Labrinth to join him went unanswered, there was a moment where I thought we were about to witness a Kanye strop, but being the professional he is, he eventually went on to say: “A second BRIT! I just want to thank Labrinth for being the genius that created the instrumental, Labrinth this one’s for you and me brother, and for UK music, peace and love.” The 22-year-old later took to the stage to perform a medley of his tracks ‘Written In The Stars’, ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ and ‘Pass Out’, where he was finally joined by producer and friend, Labrinth,

Other urban music winners on the night included: British Male Solo Artist – Plan B who was presented his award by last years winner, Dizzee Rascal, Critic’s Choice – Jessie J, a former Brit school attendee who says she’s now has her sights on winning a Grammy, international Male Solo Artist – Cee Lo Green, International Breakthrough Act – Justin Bieber, the Usher protégé who has taken the tween world by storm, and an International Female win for Rihanna

Yet, amongst all the night’s celebrations, the naysayers were itching to start a good old black/urban debate. It’s always quietly bubbling below the surface and rears its head occasionally – the recent twitter beef, or as Wiley called it, ‘racial banter’ between himself and Jay Sean, is a perfect example. Are we still really stuck in such primitive thinking to think that an artist has to be black to make urban music? Or are we ever going to evolve our thinking in the same way black music has evolved? After all it’s no longer a ‘black’ experience that inspires great artists such as Plan B, Jessie J, Adele and Tinie Tempah – it’s an inner city experience and the everyday struggles of urban living that we can all relate to regardless of colour. Even Justin Bieber, whose popular youtube videos show him singing Usher, Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight songs, is an example of how someone can be influenced and inspired by urban music and black artists, even though he’s white and from Canada.

London in 2011 is a melting pot of cultures – a fusion so diverse that we now find ourselves in a chicken/egg scenario.  So what did come first? And does anyone care anymore? In the days of Loose Ends and Soul II Soul black artists simply asked to be included. Fast-forward a decade or so from that point and So Solid were collecting a Brit Award for best video for ‘21 seconds’ and following on from them you have the Dizzee Rascals, Tinie Tempah’s and Plan B’s representing mainstream music in the UK. Then the argument becomes about how authentic or how ‘black’ the music or artists are. Or why successful black females in music tend to be of lighter skin. Choice fm Dj Phoebe One even tweeted ‘I smell the ELVIS era coming back ..where were the BLACK UK FEMALES at the #BRITS last night & don’t tell me about Rhianna’ this morning.  Maybe there are those who will always find something to complain about, be it too many Americans picking up awards at the MOBOs, or not enough black people being celebrated for their pioneering work in the music industry. The question is do they have a point?


Deb McKoy