I have no idea why a female artist hasn't won the Mercury Prize since I won it in 2002. I'm not saying that there hasn't been a woman over the past seven years who hasn't deserved to win it and I haven't listened to every single album, but I do think that the judges of the Mercury music prize are generally fair and genuine.
What is certain is that it's great for hip-hop that a female rap artist has won again. And an unconventional one, too. Thanks to her lyrics and her image, Speech Debelle really is a breath of fresh air. We met last month when we performed at an Africa Express gig together in Paris. She rapped on a special live version of my song "Dy-na-mi-tee". I think that who she is and the things she stands for come across as beautiful and positive.
She doesn't fit the stereotype of what we're usually exposed to in mainstream hip-hop. She isn't going around shaking her bum, half naked and singing suggestive lyrics. Hers isn't the kind of hip-hop that is particularly prevalent among female American artists at the moment, where everything comes down to sex.
Having been one of the only female rap artists around when I started out, it's difficult for me to comment on whether it's harder for us in the business. Maybe there were men in the industry who didn't give me as many chances as they gave to my fellow male rap artists. Then again, it can work in your favour. We're more original.
Winning the Mercury Prize was a huge thing for me both personally and for my career. It was a huge shock. I'd never imagined that there were awards to be won for doing something that I loved and which inspired me. It changed the world of Ms. Dynamite overnight in terms of my profile and the attention I received and it exposed me to a lot of people who otherwise would not have heard my music.
For now, my advice for Speech Debelle is to just keep on doing what she is doing. It gets hectic and so much happens so quickly. You can lose your way. She needs to stay strong and to stay true to herself.Reuse content