Dave took home the top prize at this year’s Mobo Awards, winning best album for his second record, We’re All Alone In This Together.
Rapper Little Simz won best female, in recognition of her triumphant third album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.
And grime legend Ghetts took home his first ever Mobo, for best male, 16 years after releasing his ground-breaking debut, 2000 & Life.
“I weren’t even expecting this,” he said. “It’s been such a journey.”
Sunday’s ceremony, which was held in Coventry Arena, marked the first in-person Mobo awards since 2017. The show took a two-year break in 2018, while last year’s awards were distributed virtually due to the pandemic.
Bree Runway successfully jolted the event back to life, revving up the red carpet on a motorbike and swerving onto the stage for a pneumatic performance of her single, Hot Hot.
There were also stand-out performances from rapper Pa Salieu, who ran through the hits Frontline, Glidin’ and My Family to a receptive hometown crowd; and rap newcomer Enny, who delivered a powerful version of her empowerment anthem, Peng Black Girls.
Recognition for drill
Drill music had a big presence, in the year that the genre earned its first UK number one single, the remix of Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ Body.
That track won song of the year, while London rapper Central Cee picked up best drill act – a new category introduced for this year’s awards.
The recognition is a sign that drill has outgrown its associations with gang violence (the genre, which originated in Chicago, was originally named after a slang term for fighting or retaliation between rival gangs).
Central Cee, who was also named best newcomer, has become known for his melodic and sometimes emotional twist on drill’s ominous beats.
“We’re still independent, we still haven’t signed a deal,” he said as he picked up his first award of the night. “I feel like that’s special in itself.”
“The cultural impact [of drill] is huge,” said Mobo founder Kanya King ahead of Sunday’s ceremony. “We’ve seen the progress and been able to acknowledge that artistic excellence.
She added: “We believe that music and the arts can be a platform for a better life.”
The event was hosted by Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock and comedian Munya Chawawa, who were lumbered with a drab and uninspired script.
That left their off-stage co-host, Eddie Kadi, to steal the best lines of the night.
“If you didn’t enjoy that, get a Covid test,” he joked, after Afroswing band NSG played on stage, “because losing your taste can be one of the symptoms”.
The awards also celebrated reggae, jazz, gospel and R&B music, with individual prizes for each of those categories.
Nigeria’s Wizkid bagged two awards, best international act and best African act; while Small Axe star Micheal Ward, won best TV performance.
The 2021 inspiration prize went to former heavyweight champion boxer Frank Bruno for his work in promoting understanding of mental health issues.
But many of the winners were absent – including Dave, whose best album prize was bizarrely announced in a throw-away montage of “other awards presented tonight”.
Highlights of the ceremony will be screened on BBC One on Wednesday, 8 December at 22:35 GMT, along with previously unseen backstage footage.
Central Cee: “I don’t know how I feel about award shows. I don’t know if it really excites me. But if there was one that I appreciate, and would accept an award from, it would be the Mobos. So, thank you very much.”
Little Simz: “I’m in the dream I always dreamed about. [So] anyone that’s watching this and has a dream to pursue – this is yours, always. Go and get it.”
Ghetts: “I always picture this moment and thought I’d be like, ‘Nah, man, forget everyone that didn’t believe [in me],’ and all of that. But this moment’s more important than that. It’s about the people that did believe, the people that was with me all the way through the journey.”
Full list of winners
- Album of the year – Dave, We’re All Alone In This Together
- Best female act – Little Simz
- Best male act – Ghetts
- Best newcomer – Central Cee
- Song of the year – Tion Wayne & Russ Millions, Body (Remix)
- Video of the year – M1llionz, Lagga
- Best grime act- Skepta
- Best R&B/soul act – Cleo Sol
- Best hip-hop act – D. Block Europe
- Best drill act – Central Cee
- Best international act – Wizkid
- Best performance in a TV show/film – Micheal Ward as Franklyn in Small Axe
- Best media personality – Chunkz & Yung Filly
- Best gospel act – Guvna B
- Best African music act – Wizkid
- Best reggae act -Shenseea
- Best jazz act – Sons of Kemet
- Best producer – Jae5