From 'Fame Academy' to plain famous, Lemar records a Mobo winner

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The Independent Culture

But last night Lemar, the 27-year-old R&B singer from Tottenham, north London, was the man of the moment when he led a triumphant night for British artists at the UK's most prestigious awards for black music.

After decades when British rappers, hip-hop artists and soul stars have struggled to compete with their rivals across the Atlantic, the 10th anniversary of the Music of Black Origin Awards - the Mobos - saw some striking home triumphs.

Lemar, who won best urban act at last year's Brits, beat off competition from American stars Mariah Carey and John Legend to secure the best album award at a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London where he was also named UK act of the year. He had been nominated in five categories.

Sway, a 22-year-old MC and producer from Haringey, north London, who is unsigned but runs his own production company, beat the bestselling American rapper 50 Cent to be named best hip-hop act.

But a strong sense of internationalism was maintained with appearances from Lauryn Hill, in her Mobo debut, and from Damian Marley, son of the legendary reggae star Bob who won the best reggae act honour. Accompanied by his mother, Rita, and brothers Julian and Stephen, Damian Marley also accepted a posthumous lifetime achievement award on behalf of his father before the brothers concluded the show with a performance of "Could You Be Loved".

The exuberant ceremony also saw Ms Dynamite, a former award-winner, perform her latest single, "Judgement Day", while John Legend, named best R&B act, sang "Ordinary People".

Kanya King, who mortgaged her home a decade ago to found the awards in anger at the failure of other ceremonies to recognise black music, said she was told there would be no audience when she started.

"But I thought, 'Hold on, we can't be the only people who can see that music of black origin is part of the British charts'."

Since then, the ceremony has attracted appearances from the likes of Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, P Diddy, Craig David and Lionel Richie among others and has survived controversies - over everything from homophobic rap lyrics to the eligibility of white singers - to become a major annual event. The winners are chosen by public vote.

"I feel tonight encapsulates all the history, success and pride of the award," Ms King said.

Of last night's British successes, she added: "It's all about the music climate at the time. There's a more patriotic feeling towards British music at the moment.

"Kano and Lemar are flying [the flag] for Britain. And UK grime artists, in particular, are phenomenal. They're London-based and producing and releasing their own records - a lot of them are not signed to majors. They have their own community which is quite amazing and reminds me of what was happening in America 20 years ago."

Kano is 19-year-old Kane "Kano" Robinson, an MC and member of the NASTY Crew who are among the leading lights of the new grime scene which has emerged in London with much of the same raw energy as early punk. He was last night named best UK newcomer.

Rhian Benson, the LSE and Harvard-educated daughter of an African father and Welsh mother, beat the more established Soweto Kinch and jazz mystery woman Madeleine Peyroux to be named best jazz act.

Best single was "Pow (Forward)" by Lethal B, a former member of More Fire Crew and a grime pioneer. Best UK club DJ was Steve Sutherland, who is also a Galaxy radio DJ, while Radio 1's Tim Westwood, the bishop's son who allegedly inspired the creation of Ali G, again took home the best UK radio DJ prize he won five years ago.

A new award for best African act, voted for only in Africa, went to Youssou N'Dour ahead of contenders including Baaba Maal and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Puerto Rican artist Daddy Yankee won best world music act.

Public Enemy received an award for their outstanding contribution to black music.

2005 Mobo winners

BEST ALBUM: Lemar, Time to Grow

BEST HIP-HOP ACT: Sway, Dcypha Productions

BEST JAZZ ACT: Rhian Benson

BEST R&B ACT: John Legend

BEST REGGAE ACT: Damian Marley, Welcome to Jamrock

BEST SINGLE: Lethal B, "Pow (Forward)"

BEST UK CLUB DJ - Steve Sutherland


BEST UK RADIO DJ: Tim Westwood

BEST VIDEO: Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams, "Drop It Like It's Hot"