Brockley native Kate Tempest and Whitechapel-born Damon Albarn were beaten to this year’s Mercury Prize by Young Fathers. The Edinburgh hip-hop group took home the £20,000 prize for their debut album Dead.
Young Fathers kept their victory speech short, offering a brief “thank you” before leaving the stage. They kept their interview with Channel Four’s Alice Levine equally short but did say they would be heading to Berlin to record their next album.
Tempest had been identified as one of the front runners for the annual prize with the Ted Hughes Prize-winning poet, rapper and playwright’s album Everybody Down competing with fka Twigs for the title of bookmakers’ favourite. However the Mercury has a long history of running against expectations and this was the case on Wednesday at the Camden Roundhouse as Scottish hip-hop triumphed over its Brockley relative.
The artist’s appearance on Channel 4 News earlier in the evening, in which she said she hoped to “encourage empathy, real empathy”, received praise on social media and it is likely that her work will now be heard by a far wider audience.
Her new single ‘Circles’ was recently played on Radio One whilst her album was ranked 40 in the iTunes chart on Wednesday night. Tempest has previously told ELL of her ambition to be “commercially present so that young girls see that you don’t have to do what the Pussycat Dolls are doing in order to be a successful woman.”
The coming months will continue to be busy for Tempest, who has just published her latest poetry collection, Hold Your Own. She will soon follow that with her first novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses, which will continue Everybody Down’s tale of three twentysomethings, Becky, Harry and Pete.
For Albarn the 2014 prize was the third occasion he had been nominated without a victory, having previously been shortlisted as a member of Blur in 1994 – whose defeat to M People has gone down as one of the biggest shocks in Mercury history – and 1999. Albarn famously withdrew his Gorillaz album from contention in 2001, describing the idea of winning the award as “like carrying a dead albatross around your neck for all eternity.”