As an artist, Skepta embodies Grime’s ability to shift on its own terms. The union of rawness, hunger, aspiration and no-holds-barred innovation at the heart of Skepta’s output has created disciples, imitators and fans the world over — and in 2021 they still rally around their undisputed chief.
In 2005 Skepta, along with his brother JME, Wiley and others, launched Boy Better Know (BBK) — a label collective which fast became one of the UK’s most prolific independent music success stories. Standing as the backbone for the Grime sound in its foundational years, BBK and Skepta were still front of mind in 2014 when mainstream interest in Grime erupted. In 2015, Skepta’s single ‘Shut Down’ was certified gold and became a social media phenomenon, transcending airwaves and proving that an authentic direct-to-fan approach can outperform the backing of traditional labels.
In 2016 Skepta brought his artistic maturity and worldview to a global audience in undiluted form; the release of his album Konnichiwa providing a landmark symbol of his evolution to that point.
Certified Gold in the UK, Konnichiwa won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year, followed by Skepta being awarded the NME Award for Best Male Artist. In 2017 Skepta was nominated for three Brit Awards; British Male Solo Artist, British Artist of the Year and British Breakthrough Act, also picking up two Ivor Novello Awards for Songwriter of the Year (Best Contemporary Song) for the single, ‘Man’.
Skepta’s positive impact on fans around the world extends beyond music. Maturing into an international role model and cultural ambassador in 2016 he helped his father build a playground in Nigeria for local children; the aim of which was to expose them to more activities and find new talents. Later that year Skepta partnered with Levis Strauss & Co. to establish a youth music facility in his hometown of Tottenham, North London.
From 2018 an extensive touring schedule has cemented Skepta’s global renown as an artist; his ongoing support of Homecoming festival in Lagos, Nigeria has ensured the growth of his African fanbase. But perhaps the crowning moment during a visit to his spiritual home that year was receiving a chieftaincy in his parents hometown in Nigeria on April 4, 2018, a title given in recognition of positive contributions to community wellbeing.
In 2019, Skepta was invited to play a key role at the prestigious Manchester International Festival. There his creative vision manifested in an immersive, tech-driven audiovisual experience, bringing to life a ‘rave of the future’ for a transfixed audience, culminating in a mind-blowing live show. This tendency to innovate through unique show formats and ideation will undoubtedly continue to underpin Skepta’s artistic canon.
In 2020, Skepta released Insomnia, a collaborative LP with British artists Chip and Yung Adz.
Today, more than fifteen years since bursting onto the scene, Skepta’s hunger and desire to innovate show no signs of letting up. Pushing his sound into new places via collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Drake, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Blood Orange, Wiz Khalifa and more, performing undiluted sets all over the world and continuing to innovate musically while global touring schedules are postponed, the self-made institution is continuing his British invasion; both onstage and off.