MOBO 2014 – The UKGospel.com Specials
So, it’s that time of the year again. The MOBOs roll back into town for 2014, returning to the Big Smoke for the first time in years, with the event taking place on October 22nd.
And you can bet your house (or rented accommodation) that the ‘whos’, ‘hows’, and ‘whys’ in response to the announced nominations will – pretty much inevitably – not be that far behind.
What is it about the UK’s biggest Black music awards that completely polarises opinion across the board..?
In the third instalment of our special #MOBOGospel series Henry Yanney catches up with 2011 MOBO Gospel Winner Tobi Oyefeso, (better known as ‘Triple O’) for the story on his MOBO win.
Part 3: Triple O – A MOBO Changed My Life…?
From the Gospel artists to respected critics within the scene, it’s become an annual ritual that Gospel music protagonists verbally go to war.
Many contest the positive and negative connotations of the MOBO award for Best Gospel and its credentials.
Whether it’s the choice of nominees under fire or the MOBO institution itself being attacked for its lack of acknowledging the wider scene, the Best Gospel Act continues to divide opinion, almost to the point of overshadowing the winner in question.
But How Does It Does Really Feel..?
Who would know what it means to win a MOBO Award? Could a journalist who has spent years ‘covering the scene’ describe the butterflies felt when their name was announced for nomination?
Does a hardcore fan or blogger who knows the industry inside out articulate the euphoria of going on stage to collect an award in a ceremony being screened to thousands across the country?
This next MOBO Gospel inspired piece comes directly from a MOBO Award winner, Triple O, taking us through the range of emotions, handshakes, heartbeats and landmark moments that the MOBO 2011 Gospel Award brought.
A respected figure in the UK Gospel circuit, the scriptural rapper discusses the landmark event three years ago.
He describes the prestigious night of his success, the industry doors which were opened (or shut) on account of his victory, the expectations, the disappointments and his opinion of the MOBOs in general.
Token Accolade – and Big Bucks
So before casting off the Gospel Award as a token accolade or assuming the big bucks come rolling in after the winning envelope is opened, check out this insight of an actual award winner.
Triple O – A MOBO Changed My Life..?
Back in 2011 I was privileged enough to get nominated for a MOBO award, and honestly speaking – I never saw it coming.
Earlier that February I had just released the second volume in my ‘Overnight Garden’ mixtape series, before putting out another free EP on my birthday in May entitled “24” which then culminated in the release of my debut album in July entitled ‘Flatline’.
I made every effort to keep myself busy that year.
Fast forward to a warm September afternoon, and I’m on a Hammersmith and City line train heading into Central London to meet a friend when all of a sudden I get a ping from Guvna B congratulating me on my nomination.
Bemused I was, I replied asking him what in the world he was referring to. He told me that I had just been nominated for a MOBO in the ‘Best Gospel’ category, and after checking this claim I truly was overwhelmed with joy.
Much More Real
I finally was being recognised by an established mainstream organisation I grew up watching.
For so long I would watch the ceremony year in and year out, and marvel at the artists that would appear on the show. What made it more exciting was seeing UK acts who were as local as I was on the same stage as these big international superstars. It made everything that much more real.
After a gruelling four-week campaign, where I put out a new video each week as a means of carrying the momentum and galvanising support – the night of the awards came.
And stepping into the Glasgow arena seeing the lights and being surrounded by some of the biggest names in UK urban music was truly a humbling experience.
It really was a new thing for me – because in all my years of doing Christian music, never had I found myself in such a setting.
Winning – 5 Minutes to Showtime…
I remember them telling me I had won 5 minutes before the category was to be announced on stage and gave me a strict warning to keep any speech short and sweet. It still hadn’t hit me.
I remember them calling out my name and then going up to collect the award. It still hadn’t hit me.
It was not until the next day when I got home and watched it back on TV had the reality of it all smacked me in the face.
This award show I spent so many years watching had just recognised a year’s worth of faithful labour in front of millions.
Winning – The Aftermath
After the win I was fortuned enough to do an acoustic session with MOBO which then allowed me to meet the legendary Sir Tom Jones who dropped by during the session.
Utilising the Win
But because of my status as a student at the time, properly utilising the win was something I wasn’t fully able to do. We ended up doing a concert later on in the year to celebrate the year’s achievements and that in itself was a great end to a packed year.
MOBO Goes to Waste..?
People see the MOBOs as the be all and end all of it all. Once you win one, then you have made it – which is not entirely true. Yes, it will open doors and give one a leg to stand on in the mainstream arena – but unless an artist utilises it, it can go to waste.
A nomination and eventually winning an award should not be the end of something, but instead be the start of something.
What do you have planned next? Are you releasing a project? Is there a tour? How do you plan to take this award which is recognised outside the gospel arena and use it to further one’s ministry outside the four walls of the church?
These are questions which one must ask themselves or else the award simply sits on your shelf for no one to see and the artist joins a long list of winners nobody will remember come the next two years.
Drift Back Into Obscurity
I sincerely hope that this year’s nominees do not make the same mistake of relenting on their efforts come the award show and then drift back into obscurity once the event has gone past, because the reality is even getting nominated is a big thing.
If you attend the ceremony, network – make a conscious effort to meet new people working within the industry.
VIDEO: The Triple O MOBO Interview – ‘The Meaning of Gospel Music’
More from Triple O – Top MOBO Tips
What would you do anything differently if you had the chance again?
At the time I didn’t have the industry knowledge I have taken the time to acquire now, so when receiving the award it was simply another accolade – but from a more reputable establishment.
If the opportunity was given to me once again, things would be very different.
For one, a ‘follow through campaign’ would have been executed. Some sort of media/press tour post the win to carry through with the momentum – and this would have been with ‘mainstream’ media outlets, capitalising on the MOBO brand.
For this to have been done effectively, I would have had to hire a PR / Marketing team to run this campaign – which would have included schools, churches and youth groups up and down the country.
In saying this; doing such a run without a product would have made no sense, so the logical thing to do would have been to put together an EP (not a full length album) to run with.
I say EP because to the world – outside of the gospel bubble and pre-MOBO, the mainstream arena would have been completely unaware of who I was – so no matter how one was being viewed within the Christian arena; after winning such an award you move from being a big fish in a little pond to being a small fish in an ocean.
How best can an artist from a niche sector like ours make the most of their win?
Make Contacts. As with most industries it’s all about who you know and how well you know them.
Networking makes all the difference. So when doing the runs, do not be afraid to ask for help. Also, regardless of the Category – MOBO is MOBO!
The fact that you have that under your belt will open doors for one – fact. So do not be afraid to swipe the ‘MOBO card’ when perusing non-Christian outlets and ventures.
Do not be afraid to apply for festivals, interviews on FM radio stations, features in online publications – the key is really striking whilst the iron is hot, or else one becomes just another name on an ever-growing list of winners people will forget over time.
Is there anything the wider Gospel community can do to support the MOBO Gospel category?
You cannot force people to show interest in that which they have no interest in.
Putting aside the MOBOs, if the community have no interest in UK Gospel Music – they will have no interest in the accolades which celebrate the artists in question.
Now what can be done to generate the interest in which I’m referring to is a whole separate debate in and of itself, one which will fall on both consumers and producers of gospel music alike.
Suggestions I could make off-head
- More UK artists headlining their own shows
- More UK artists and Gospel media putting together well packaged tours
- More of a willingness from consumers to buy the music, encouraging others to follow suit
- Bigger churches signing up to pay out royalty payments
- Collaborative efforts from us all to get UK artists booked abroad, raising the profile and prestige of our scene
How exactly would you go about quantifying what impact – if any – picking up a MOBO Gospel has on an artist in a highly specialised market like Gospel?
For me, this would be very hard to measure.
Though it has raised my profile, I can openly admit that I won it at a time that I wasn’t prepared for – which meant that I did not properly make use of it.
Generally speaking, it is really down to the individual – if they win it and just sit on it, give it 3 months and we will forget that their triumph.
But proactivity will bring about results. So it really is in the follow through.
How does a MOBO Gospel category win impact on an artist’s profile? On unit sales? On credibility and respectability within and outside our scene?
Unless I can be proved otherwise, a win alone will have very little effect on sales. Keeping in mind the mainstream still view this category as a side filler put in out of obligation.
Now, if an artist can present themselves and their product in such a way which refutes that way of thinking about this genre, then impact will be felt.
In terms of credibility, it has a massive effect – those who had no knowledge to be aware now have a reason to care. And I am talking outside of our bubble.
With the UK gospel arena, it’s a tag that goes before your name to sell tickets for any gospel event that books you.