Bugzy Malone hoping to beat Stormzy at MOBOs
Bugzy Malone has more reasons than most to want to win at the MOBO Awards.
If the self-proclaimed King of the North can beat Stormzy to win Best Male on Wednesday night it will be proof that grime’s reach extends way beyond the London-dominated scene.
“Being from a different city is my USP – my unique selling point,” the 25-year-old explains.
“One of my intentions is to – off the back of my success – show people outside of London that any of us can be successful.”
Six years ago Bugzy Malone started out making music with free beats he had downloaded off the internet, now the rapper is one of grime’s brightest stars.
His last two EPs both reached the Top 10 in the UK album chart – a remarkable achievement given his tough start in life.
“It’s hard to be creative and to see your potential when you’ve not even got ground zero, when you’ve not even got the foundations to be able to express yourself,” he said.
“You’re experiencing poverty, dysfunction at home, it’s hard to go out and be what you’re capable of being.”
His lyrics are littered with stories of his challenging upbringing in Manchester. The gangs, dealing drugs and a spell in prison in his teens.
“Things could have gone very differently, when you lose your freedom you understand how important your freedom is, first and foremost…being so young and in jail, after that I decided to focus and discipline myself.”
He credits learning to box and then getting into music with providing his life with a purpose.
Through word of mouth, people started seeking out his mix tapes and, rather than waste time trying to contact record companies, he started making more.
“It’s the day of independent artists,” he insists. “I’ve put projects out on my own label twice now and been very successful which shows you don’t need a major label to back you in this day and age.”
2017 has been an incredible year for grime. What was once an underground scene is now a part of the musical mainstream, embraced by the political elite and on course to win even more awards on Wednesday night, with Stormzy leading way with five MOBO nominations.
A recent Ticketmaster report found 43% of people claimed they listened to grime in some shape or form.
Streams of it have more than doubled from 89 million to 206m in the past year. According to Spotify, Stormzy is the most streamed grime artist to date, followed by Skepta and Dizzee Rascal.
The sound itself was born from the bedrooms of East London council estates well over a decade ago.
Influenced by rap, dancehall and electronic music like garage and jungle, its high tempos of around 140 beats per minute are what gives it it’s distinctive, harder sound.
:: Sampha beats Sheeran and Stormzy to win Mercury Prize
Mykaell Riley, who’s carrying out the first academic studies into the genre at the University of Westminster, says there are parallels to punk.
“It’s challenged what’s considered a good production sound. Its challenged what is viable as a genre,” he said.
“At one point it didn’t have a name, at one point it was not considered a legitimate genre within the industry, all of those comparisons make it similar to punk. It’s also youth-led and that makes it edgy, unpredictable and exciting.”
Riley says it’s move into the mainstream has helped change lazy stereotypes about the violence that’s sometimes associated with rap.
“Stormzy is now seen as this cuddly, over six-foot geezer, that you’d bump into on the Tube and he’d be accessible.
“Take that back just a year ago and certain individuals would consider running from [him]. In terms of where we are now it’s healthy, positive and long may it be this way.”
Kicking out against the establishment, with its uncompromising sound, there’s no doubt grime has been centre stage this year.
What’s not clear is if Wednesday night’s awards at Leeds First Direct Arena will recognise a genre that has now peaked or if grime can go on to dominate 2018 as well.