Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Do We Really Need The Mobos?

What is Music of Black Origin Anyway?

Tonight (October 5th) sees what is supposed to be the biggest night of the 'urban' music scene in the UK as most of our favourite artisits at The Urbanite descend on Glasgow for the annual Mobo (Music of Black Origin) awards.

Launched in 1996, back when 'urban' music was restricted to underground raves and specialist mixtapes, the Mobos were a chance to celebrate the music that we cherished and loved.  When award shows like the Brits and programmes like Top of the Pops ignored up and coming black artists with mass appeal, like So Solid Crew and Misteeq, the Mobos were the chance for these artists to shine and celebrate their annual achievements.  But now, more than ever before, I think it is time we question why the Mobos even take place.

I mean, what is 'Music of Black Origin' anyway?

Artists as diverse as Elvis Presley and Plan B have been influenced in one way or another by black musicians, leading some people to argue that all music is 'music of black origin'.  And if the answer to this question is that the Mobos is designed to celebrate black artists, how would I feel, as a black man, if the script was flipped and we had a 'Music of White Origin' night every year?

This question seems even more pertinent when one considers some of the artists that have been nominated for Mobos this year.

Take JLS, for example.  Apart from the colour of their skins, what is 'black' about their music?  Their music is identical to half of the white boybands out there today, yet we do not see The Wanted or One Direction invited to the award show.  Which leads to the assumption that being of colour, rather than being inspired by musicians of colour, is one criteria that guarantees a Mobo nomination.

The issue becomes even more ridiculous when you look at the the people with the top nominations.  Now Adele I can understand, as you can hear the influence of old soul singers like Aretha Franklin in her voice. But Jessie J?! Apart from 'Do it Like a Dude', all of her songs sound like standard bubblegum pop, with the odd rap thrown in for good measure.  Most of her songs, as well as Adele's, are not considered 'urban' enough to appear on MTV Base yet both artists will undoubtedly win Mobos tonight.

The fact of the matter is that, as black artists have become more and more mainstream, the Mobos are becoming increasingly irrelevant.  When you look at the top selling UK songs of the year, most of them emanate from 'urban' artists like Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32 who now do not need a niche awards show to celebrate their achievements, especially when more mainstream award shows like The Brits recognise their talents.  Let's face it, a lot of chart music today sounds the same, with rnb vocals mixed with electro beats being the staple music for teenagers.  It doesn't matter about the colour of your skin anymore, as previously unmarketable artists like Giggs are becoming more and more popular, but the sound of the beats and the music that you make.

Which leads to the conclusion that music today is post racial.  And in a world of post racial music, having an awards show that targets one specific racial group is counter-productive since it reinforces the ghetto-isation and segregation of 'black' music and pigeon-holes artists like Tinie Tempah into a corner.

The Mobos may have been useful in the 90s, but today so called urban music is now pop music. And with that major development, the Mobos are no longer needed.

It's about time we did away with the show altogether.  


  1. Just read this now - excellent points made!
    Keep up the good work.

  2. I agree whole-heartedly.... but the Mobos are now an industry in themselves, and no matter how irrelevant they are gonna fight tooth and nail to keep the money rolling their way!