A brief history of the MOBO Awards as event arrives in Sheffield

So Solid Crew at the MOBO Awards
So Solid Crew performed at the MOBO Awards in 2001. Credit: PA

The MOBO Awards are back for a 26th time.

Celebrating music of black origin, this year's event takes place on Wednesday at Sheffield's Utilita Arena – its first ever visit to the city.

Founded by Kanya King in 1996, the awards set out to "reflect the black experience", reward "talent and determination" and "honour the past and inspire the future".

They were the first in Europe specifically recognising black culture.

The first event was a sit-down dinner at London's Connaught Rooms, recognising artists such as The Fugees, Tupac, Goldie, Gabrielle and Seal.

The MOBOs' founder, Kanya King, was awarded a CBE in 2018 for services to music and culture Credit: PA

It has since grown to be a much larger event, being held in huge arenas around the country, with a different location selected each year.

From jazz to hip hop, reggae to grime, the MOBOs highlight the diverse musical genres which have their roots in black culture.

Dre, Destiny's Child, Dizzee Rascal

The MOBOs has drawn a huge variety of high-profile UK and international acts over the years.

Gabrielle, Tupac, Dr Dre and The Fugees were among the first to pick up accolades in 1996.

International pop sensation Lionel Richie was also honoured, receiving a Lifetime Achievement award.

Tina Turner (left) and Ms Dynamite have both performed at the MOBOs over the years Credit: PA

Over the next few years the big names kept coming, with performances from huge artists including Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, Eternal, Tina Turner, Destiny's Child and Craig David.

The early 2000s saw the emergence of some of Britain's best-known home-grown talent, with the likes of So Solid Crew, Dizzee Rascal, Ms Dynamite, Jamelia and Lethal Bizzle picking up awards.

Garage band So Solid Crew burst onto the scene in 2001, opening the ceremony with an high-energy performance of their number one hit 21 Seconds.

So Solid Crew picked up two awards after this performance in 2001 Credit: PA

They picked up the Best Newcomer and Best Garage Act awards.

In 2005 the Best African Act category was introduced, won by Senegalese artist Youssou N'Dour.

The following year, R&B royalty Beyoncé and Rihanna, both still in the relative early stages of their solo careers, collected a quarter of the awards on offer between them.

Beyoncé won Best Song, Video and International Female, while Rihanna won Best R&B Act on the same night she treated the crowd to a spine-tingling performance of 'Unfaithful', backed by a string ensemble and piano.

International stars Beyoncé (left) and Rihanna have both previously won awards at the MOBOs Credit: PA

Two years later, in 2007, soul singer Amy Winehouse sang two songs for the crowd before winning Best Female Act.

A special tribute was made to her at the 2011 ceremony following her death in July of that year.

The same year saw Jessie J claim four awards: Best Album, Best Song, Best Newcomer and Best UK Act.

Her success though, along with that of some others, raised questions about the direction the MOBOs was heading.

Jessie J with one of her four MOBO awards in 2011

In 2012, The Guardian newspaper's arts correspondent Lanre Bakare wrote that he thought the awards could be becoming too commercialised, rewarding artists who were "sacrific[ing] authenticity for mainstream success" under pressure from major music labels.

He quoted artist Labrinth criticising the selection of some of the 2012 nominees: "I think [the MOBOs ceremony] is a bit weird because Ed Sheeran doesn't make black music, and neither does Conor Maynard – he makes commercial pop.

"Even I'm not making black music. It's commercial music, but at least it is more related to hip-hop so it makes more sense."

In 2015 the 20th MOBO Awards was held Leeds.

Lethal Bizzle (left) at the 2015 MOBOs and Stormzy with his three awards in 2017 Credit: PA

Cult icon Lethal Bizzle kicked things off in style, rolling up in a yellow Lamborghini before performing his hits Fester Skank and Pow.

Stormzy - who went on to become the first black British solo headliner at Glastonbury Festival in 2019 - collected the awards for Best Male and Best Grime Act, adding to his previous Best Grime Act from the year before.

He was a triple winner two years later, collecting Best Album, Best Male and Best Grime Act.

Stormzy tops the list of nominees for 2024, with four.

Following a two-year break the MOBOs returned at Wembley Arena in 2020, noticeably influenced by drill music which had grown in popularity during the intervening years.

Prominent rapper Headie One went on to collect the award for Best Male Act.

2022 saw legendary musician and producer Nile Rodgers - originally of Chic fame, but who has also worked with Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and many more - honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award.

Nile Rodgers received the Lifetime Achievement award at the 25th MOBOs in 2022 Credit: PA

'White appropriation' and wrong winners: MOBOs controversies

The MOBOs has had its fair share of controversy.

In 2003, there were calls for a boycott of the awards after white pop stars Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera won Best R&B Act and Best Video respectively, with The Independent newspaper describing it as the "white appropriation of black music".

A MOBOs spokesperson defended the move however, saying the MOBOs ethos was to "celebrate and highlight" music of black origin "whether made by black artists, or Asian or white".

In 2016 the award for Best Song was given to the wrong act, when hip-hop trio WSTRN were announced as the winners for their song In2, only to be asked to hand the gong back an hour later due to a "production error".

WSTRN did eventually collect an award for Best Newcomer, after mistakenly being given Best Song earlier in the evening Credit: PA

The award was then handed to the correct winners, Abra Cadabra and Krept & Konan.

In 2020, Rock duo Nova Twins wrote an open letter to the MOBO Awards in asking organisers to consider including a rock/alternative category, citing legendary black guitarists Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix.

In it the band said: "We believe that you can widen the representation that ourselves and so many others didn’t have growing up.

Nova Twins' open letter to the MOBOs appeared to lead to the introduction of the award for Best Alternative Act Credit: PA

"Rock’n’roll is of black origin but because of the systemic issues that we still face today, [people of colour] contributors to the genre have been lost along the way."

The MOBOs responded positively shortly afterwards, writing on social media: "We see you Nova Twins! Rock and the alternative music genre certainly has its roots in black music and the contributions of talented musicians in this field deserve to be further celebrated."

Two years later, the Best Alternative Act category was added to the list for the first time, along with Best Electronic/Dance Act, which were won by Bob Vylan and Nia Archives respectively.

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