Young Fathers beat big names to win Mercury

UNDERDOGS: The hip-hop trio - comprising Massaquoi, Bankole and Hastings - from Scotland beat far better-selling British artists to take home the S$32,000 award.


    Oct 31, 2014

    Young Fathers beat big names to win Mercury


    YOUNG Fathers, an underground hip-hop trio from Scotland with roots in Liberia and Nigeria, won the prestigious Mercury Prize on Wednesday, beating far better-selling British artists.

    Young Fathers' first studio album, Dead, topped a field that included Blur frontman Damon Albarn, as well as increasingly popular artists such as poet-turned-rapper Kate Tempest and R&B-influenced trip-hopper FKA twigs.

    Young Fathers took home the £20,000 (S$32,000) award, given each year for the best British or Irish album, even though Dead had sold fewer than 2,400 copies by this week.

    "Young Fathers have a unique take on urban British music, brimming with ideas: forceful, unexpected and moving," said Simon Frith, the chair of the judging panel.

    Based in Edinburgh, the trio features Alloysious Massaquoi, who was born in Liberia; Kayus Bankole, whose parents were from Nigeria and who grew up partly in the United States; and locally rooted Graham "G" Hastings.

    With a rap lyrical delivery set to non-traditional bass arrangements and occasional African influences, Young Fathers have posed a challenge for critics trying to put labels on their genre.

    Critics' descriptions have included "psychedelic hip-hop" and a "boy band through the bottom of a glass of crystal meth".

    In an interview before the awards, Hastings said the band believed that easy definition would amount to artistic failure.

    "Most bands exist because they think they can make money and have a laugh. So they try and fit in somewhere, but that's not fun for us," he told online music magazine Drowned In Sound.

    Massaquoi said that most bands simply tried to emulate artists whom they enjoyed.

    "We know the stuff that's influenced us has already been done, so we question how we can do it differently," he said.

    The band are planning to spend a month in Berlin to record a new album.

    The award for Young Fathers comes after criticism in recent years that the Mercury Prize has put too much focus on mainstream artists.

    The shortlist included a number of relatively obscure artists, with Albarn and Bombay Bicycle Club among the only well-known names to receive nominations.