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
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.