MOBO win 'huge deal' for Newport says Skindred frontman Benji Webbe

  • The band's frontman Benji Webbe sat down with Mike Griffiths to chat about their MOBO success

Skindred frontman Benji Webbe says he was initially “freaked out” when the band got a MOBO nomination, but told ITV Wales' Mike Griffiths winning is a ”huge deal” for the black community and Newport.

They've long been mainstays of the alternative music scene, playing at the biggest festivals the genre has to offer the world over.

But 2023 saw the band rise to a new-found mainstream prominence after their song 'Nobody' went viral on TikTok with thousands dancing along to the track.

It's a quirk of the modern music landscape, a record first released in 2002 by Skindred, getting a new life online. But this has been far from a 'flash in the pan' moment for the band.

Benji has always wanted “more urban vibes” in the heavy music scene and hopes this latest award win will expose them to a whole new generation of music fans.

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He knew they were going to be up against some “pretty tough competition” and felt it “wasn’t going to be easy.”

But he says when their name echoed around the venue, he was lost for words.

He said: “We were sat there, I was really nervous because I really wanted it, badly wanted it. Never have I been to such a prestigious award ceremony before and I really wanted to take this home for Skindred, and for Newport.”

Despite all the new eyes and ears on the band over the past 12 months, Benji can never be accused of forgetting where he comes from.

Benji spoke with ITV Wales in Le Pub, one of the bars where the band “first cut their teeth”.

He said: “I’ve always felt accepted in Newport as a black man. I think it is not a given because your born there they are going to accept you. But I have always felt like you just choose your soldiers, your army.

“You choose the people around you and I am very fortunate that I’ve always chosen decent friends around me. And Newport, to me, has been built on friendship and love. You know that’s for me. I cannot speak for everybody or every other black man.

“I think my whole life has been built on good vibes and people who want to share love and show love and I think that is why I feel so at home.”

He added: “[The MOBOs] is such a huge deal in the black community and I know more black people are going to see Skindred and people who are into a dancy, urban kind of sound are going to meet Skindred through the MOBOs. So it was a brilliant opportunity for us to meet more people.

“Skindred’s music is about unity and bringing people together and we’ve got a great, I would say, rock audience.

“Most of our gigs are full or rock fans who love rock music. I’ve always wanted more urban vibes, so this is a great opportunity for me and I was like Lord please let me win this.”

Days later it is still sinking in. He said: “I spent the first morning crying.

“It’s not like winning a Kerrang award, it’s not like winning something, your used to, preaching to the converted. It wasn’t like that.

“This was a new ball game and I always wanted that in my life, having Skindred win that MOBO it was outstanding, it knocked it out of the park for us.”

With three decades in the music industry under their belts, Benji says the secret of their success is that they haven’t changed anything.

He said: “I am still doing what I am doing. I am a dance hall reggae singer, in a rock band using anything necessary to make the people dance.

“Whether it’s hip hop, drum and bass, no matter what it is, we just want a party in the room!”

Bands come and go but Benji believes the reason Skindred has survived so long is because they just love playing music together.

The group's been together around a quarter of a century and he acknowledges that is quite a feat, saying "most marriages don’t last that long" and that it is "something to celebrate."

He added: “We don’t always get on. We are not like the Two Ronnies where we sleep in the same bed, Morecambe and Wise-style. It ain’t like that whatsoever.

“You know what we love? We love to play music together. You know we don’t even hang around together but when it comes to the music we’re all on the same page and we want to make music together. And I think that is the beauty of being in Skindred.

“Whether we are playing in a room this size, which we love to play or we’re playing in the OVO Arena, Wembley, London, we’re still going to bring that energy.

“Just give me a mic, I am going to do what I do.”

Le Pub manager Sam Dabb says it's important to celebrate the past, as well as the "incredible music" coming out of Newport right now. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Benji's passion for the Newport scene is echoed by Le Pub's manager Sam Dabb.

She says it's important to celebrate the past, but equally as important to "focus on the future" with the "incredible music" coming out of Newport right now.

She said: "In the last 18 months the amount of music being produced in Newport has absolutely gone through the roof. It's incredible to see".

Music lovers will soon have another exciting venue on their doorstep, The Corn Exchange.

Sam added: "We are currently entering a phase where Newport and grassroots venues as a whole, mostly due to the visible work of Music Venue Trust, the work that is coming out of those venues across the UK is so important and so prolific.

"We are renovating an old office building, to become a 500-capacity music venue for Newport.

"It is community-owned, so it will literally belong to Newport and not us."

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