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Dizzee with success at the Mercury Music Prize

Story: Jack Foley

THE smart money had been on The Darkness or Coldplay, but underground urban artist, Dizzee Rascal confounded the odds by walking away with the 2003 Mercury Music Prize, on Tuesday, September 9.

The surprise winner has now become the first rapper to win the prestigious accolade, as well as its youngest ever recipient.

The showcase award is rated as one of the music industry's most important, and can provide a platform for whoever wins it.

Rascal received the award from last year's winner, Ms Dynamite, for his debut album, Boy in Da Corner, which is a no-nonsense record recounting what it was like growing up on the East London estate he hails from.

And gracious in victory, the rapper said that although he had not been expecting to win, he was happy to be recognised.

He said acknowledgement meant more, because he had come from nothing - having been thrown out of school on numerous occasions.

The singer has also courted controversy earlier this year, when he was stabbed in the clubbing resort of Ayia Napa.

But receiving his award, he thanked God, his mum and family and 'everyone in the underground'.

Rascal, aka Dylan Mills, has already been hailed by several top Djs as one of the most exciting young artists to emerge on the rap scene, from the UK, for ages.

His stark, often controversial, lyrics and experimental beats are a defining feature of his music, which, he claims, will not be changed by the newfound glory.

In fact, just hours after waking up with a champagne hangover, following the ceremony, he told Radio 1's Joe Whiley that he was headed back into the studio to begin work on the follow-up to his debut album.

As for the £20,000 prize which accompanies the award, he joked as he claimed it was 'in safe hands'.

The Mercury Music Prize is awarded by a panel of judges, including music journalists, Djs, an academic and a composer, and was announced at a glittering ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

The award is seen as a more credible alternative to the higher-profile Brits because of its reputation for backing non-established acts across many genres.

It very seldom plumps for the obvious choice, with last year's winner, Ms Dynamite, beating early favourite, The Streets, to the prize.

This year's main contenders were thought to be The Darkness, Coldplay and, of course, Radiohead, while the likes of Martina Topley-Bird and Lemon Jelly were also nominated.

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