Sampha's album Process scoops Mercury Prize
Singer-songwriter Sampha beat off competition from Ed Sheeran and Stormzy to win the UK’s most prestigious music award, the Mercury Prize.
He took home the album of the year award for his debut Process, defeating Sheeran’s Divide and Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer as well as nine other shortlisted records.
The south London star looked stunned as he received a standing ovation from the crowd in London’s Eventim Apollo.
He told the crowd: “I feel like I’m dreaming a little bit, this is incredible. Thank you to the judges for thinking that my album was good enough for this.”
He dedicated the prize, which includes a cheque for £25,000, to his parents saying: “I had the best upbringing possible,” before adding: “I can’t believe it.”
Host Lauren Laverne said his win was the result of the longest-ever deliberation by Mercury judges, which this year included Jamie Cullum, Ella Eyre, Marcus Mumford and Jessie Ware.
Before handing over the prize, actor and DJ Idris Elba hailed the state of the UK music industry, saying: “English music is at the best it’s ever been ever.”
After collecting his prize, Sampha treated the audience to another rendition of (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano.
The judging panel said: “Sampha’s Process is a beautifully intimate record. With its unique creativity, rich musicality, depth and vulnerability, it resonates emotionally and speaks to the heart.
“When you discover this record you’ll want to live with it, share it and celebrate it”.
Throughout the evening each of the shortlisted artists, excluding Sheeran, took to the stage to perform a track from their nominated album.
Stormzy appeared dressed in black standing at a table of others dressed in black with balaclavas to recreate the cover of his hit album during his rendition of First Things First and Blinded By Your Grace.
Sheeran, who is touring in the US, sent a video message saying he was not expecting to be shortlisted but adding it was always a goal to play the Shepherds Bush Empire and have a Mercury-nominated album.
Grime star Skepta, who took home the award in 2016, returned to the ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC Four, to perform Man from his winning album Konnichiwa.
He included a shout-out to Stormzy’s album and the Common Sense, the short-listed album by J Hus.
Other shortlisted acts to take to the stage during the awards were Alt-J, Blossoms, Dinosaur, Glass Animals, J Hus, Kate Tempest, Loyle Carner, The Big Moon and The xx.
Judge Cullum tweeted his congratulations after the show, writing: “Thrilled to have been part of the @MercuryPrize again to celebrate a worthy winner. Congratulations @sampha.”
Earlier in the evening, the nominees hailed the diversity on the shortlist, with Loyle Carner telling the Press Association: “One of the most important things is there are positive black men in the media, doing something creative and doing something special, and that is something that cannot be overlooked and shouldn’t be overlooked.
“People have been saying this year: ‘Oh Mercury isn’t as good as it was last year’, well I think it’s fantastic and especially to have guys like Stormzy standing big and tall and proud, and showing kids that are his age, kids that are younger, that they can amount to something and showing something positive.
“Everyone knows about it but they don’t see it, so to see it right there is wicked.”