MOBO UnSung 2012: Artists Catch Up
When we launched our MOBO UnSung competition early last year, the mission was to uncover talented artists from across the UK and give them a platform to show the country what they’ve got. The search was a huge success we visited various regions from London to Glasgow and saw incredible performances from some of the UK’s major new artists. MOBO UnSung returns this year and in the run up to the competition we thought we’d catch up with last year’s regional winners.
Liverpool singer Esco Williams was the overall winner of MOBO UnSung 2012. He emerged on the music scene as a teenager, and hasn’t looked back since. He’s a fantastically versatile artist, whose music is a heady combination of genres including soul, pop and R&B. He counts Stevie Wonder, Aloe Blacc and Cee-Lo Green as inspirations. The charismatic, self proclaimed “soul powered nerd” cleverly contrasts a ghetto geek image with sophisticated, soulful vocals. His music has been added to the playlists for the urban music channels AKA and Flava TV, but what else has Esco Williams been up to? The spirited singer told us that things have been “bless”. He released his debut single ‘New Challenger’, and he has been preparing to embark on a schools tour. Plus, he was also featured on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s 2013 Ones to Watch list. Williams went on to say that he “loved the entire experience” of MOBO UnSung. He noted that winning the competition boosted his profile and presented him with a number of opportunities that might not have previously been available to him. With his tour in the pipeline and more music on the way, 2013 looks set to be an eventful year for this rising star.
Soul singer, Jacob Banks is establishing himself as one of the UK’s most promising new stars. With a voice that sound as though it’s come straight out of the 1960s motown era, his music is a mix of vintage soul sounds injected with modern British edge. A talented songwriter and guitarist, Banks decided to take music seriously little over a year ago - and he has achieved some amazing feats in that short time. He performed at the Royal Albert Hall and supported Plan B in concert. Banks won the UnSung title for Birmingham and mentioned in a subsequent interview with Press Play TV that he was “really happy [and] didn’t expect to win”. Since then he has continued to raise his profile in the music industry, attracting attention from some major record labels. He kicked off 2013 with the release of his second EP, The Monologue. The eight-track collection was well received by fans and critics alike and was praised by fellow UK artists Mr Hudson, Kano and Misha B. His music has been added to the playlists of some major radio stations and he performed a seminal set for BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Live Lounge in January. 2013 will be another eventful year for the young songwriter. He is finishing his next EP and working on a project involving Wretch 32 and emerging talent, George The Poet; plus he will be supporting Emeli Sandé on her UK tour.
Rapper Kobi Onyame has fast created a name for himself on the UK’s underground music scene. He combines socially conscious lyrics with music that skillfully incorporates a variety of genres including Rock, Pop and Hi Life. The Glasgow-based MC uses this fusion to create his unique brand of insightful and accessible, alternative Hip Hop. He has enjoyed support from major radio stations and has worked with an amazing list of artists including Emeli Sandé and Sway. After winning the MOBO UnSung prize for his region, Onyame got the opportunity to open for hip hop legend, Nas. He continued to release tracks from his impressive Green Green Grasses album and he also began working on new material. Onyame notes that his proudest UnSung moment was performing in his home city; “Taking my music to the stage - that’s the best part”. So, what do the next 12 months have in store for this talented rapper? He will be busy adding the finishing touches to his third album, Greener Pastures, and he plans to spend the rest of the year gigging and promoting this new project.
London’s MOBO UnSung winner MC Xploder first emerged onto the grime scene five years ago. After honing his skills as part of the Highly Rated Collective, he decided to step out on his own. Inspired by artists like Dizzee Rascal and Michael Jackson, Xploder’s music is an eclectic mix of musical styles, including electronica and drum and bass. The east London rapper is fast becoming known for making club bangers with hard hitting lyricism and polished production. He has received radio support from the likes of Kiss and Choice FM. Since winning the London MOBO UnSung gong, he’s been very busy indeed – he performed at BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekender, and signed to independent label Ice Cream Records. Clearly Xploder has made some big moves since last year, but what did he enjoy most about the UnSung experience? He told us that “being able to engage with a new crowd of people [and] make a lasting impression” was the best part. The London rapper has some big plans for 2013, including a new mixtape called Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, and he’ll also be working on a new EP.
Chris 4sit hails from the North East of England. He is primarily an MC, but he also sings, produces, and plays piano and guitar. With this impressive array of talents, 4sit takes full creative control over his music and experiments with different musical styles. He combines catchy piano melodies and heavy beats with emotive lyrical content. After scooping the MOBO UnSung prize for Newcastle, he was added to the line-up for the Evolution Festival, the biggest festival in the north east. He also spent time developing his musical style and recording new material, and told us that he really enjoyed taking part in the UnSung competition. He says the experience was a real advantage for him, especially as an artist from the north east of the country; MOBO helped Chris 4sit connect with people from a variety of areas, instantly bringing his music to a wider audience and securing him many new fans. As for 2013, Chris 4sit will be continuing to study at university, and has put together an acoustic band - he’ll be working on developing music with them, as well as focusing on his solo project.
Originally a member of the grime collective, City Boiz Elite- Rafroman got his musical footing performing in clubs and local showcases around Peterborough. He decided to pursue music seriously after performing at a Hip Hop Jam event- featuring the likes of N-Dubz and Big Narstie. Armed with a steely determination to succeed, Rafroman began attending music workshops, and took every opportunity to perform. His music comprises elements of grime, garage and hip hop; and he has quickly established a reputation for catchy hooks and clever punch lines. The rapper‘s first mixtape, Soon 2B Da Best created an underground buzz. The music videos have appeared on Flava TV; and his song, ‘Baby Girl’ was featured on the internationally released compilation album, Mastermix Pro 2010. After winning the UnSung prize for Norwich; he embarked on a club tour, and released the single ‘Getta Gyal’- featuring MC/producer, Stylo G. Having also released the track, ‘When We Were Young’, Rafroman looks set to spend 2013 bringing together new material for his forthcoming EP.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions is a soul collective based in Manchester. Styling themselves as the antidote to disposable, gimmicky music, the nine-piece band create soulful tunes with gospel flavor and a Motown edge. The group was formed when DJ/producer, Mentat, was searching for a female vocalist for his solo album. Session singer, ShezAr stepped up and FAQ was born. They soon began creating material for their debut album, Sonny Boy, and have become known for their energetic live performances. The band won Manchester’s UnSung prize and in an interview with Vox Africa, ShezAr notes; “We made a difference, this year because we’re taking it back to real, live music that uplifts people [and] makes them smile”. So, what’s next for FAQ? The band will focus on separate projects; ShezAr has released the video for her new track, ‘Forever’ featuring Mac 1 and continues to work as a vocal consultant.
Empz a.k.a Empror is the young Bristol - based rapper, who scooped the UnSung prize for his region. He works with long time producer friend, Duppy Beatz to create music that blends grime, hip hop and R&B with uplifting, lyrics about aspiration and perseverance. Though primarily a rapper, Empz also provides most of the vocal hooks on his tracks. His 2012 song, ‘Fading Stranger’ is a stand out collaboration with pop vocalist, Abi. It sees him utilising his rapping and singing skills to great effect on the quirky, pop record. Since his winning the UnSung prize he performed at a variety of festivals including Brighton’s Great Escape. He was also was invited to perform on the BBC Introducing stage at both the Reading and Leeds festivals. He started 2013 with the video release of his single, ‘Wake Up’ from his mixtape, My Philosophy. Empz will spend the year juggling promotion for this new project with creating new music for his next release.
All the acts have achieved great things so far, we hope they continue to rise and that 2013's UnSung competition uncovers many more great talents.