A veteran of the U.K. grime scene, MC, producer, and record-label owner Skepta was influential in its shift from the underground to the pop charts, as well as its creative and commercial resurgence during the mid-2010s. Born Joseph Junior Adenuga to Nigerian parents, Skepta moved to Tottenham with his family at the age of three. Inspired by both U.S. and U.K. hip-hop, he started his music career appearing on the pirate radio circuit and performing at various MC battles. In 2005, he formed the grime label Boy Better Know with brother J.M.E. and Wiley, and a year later joined East London collective Roll Deep, although he left the following year to concentrate on Boy Better Know and his solo career. He released his first two albums, Greatest Hits and Microphone Champion, through his label before signing with All Around the World Records in 2010. In the same year, he reached the Top 40 with "Bad Boy" (number 26) and "Rescue Me" (number 14), supported Chipmunk on his U.K. tour, and was personally selected by P. Diddy to record a grime remix of "Hello Good Morning" after being recommended by his Twitter followers. His third album, Doin' It Again, featuring the Top 40-charting single "Cross My Heart," was released at the beginning of 2011, subsequently peaking at number 19 on the U.K. album chart.
In 2012, Skepta released two singles ("Hold On" and the C+C Music Factory-sampling "Make Peace Not War") that took his sound in a more commercially minded direction. Both songs hit the Top 30 of the U.K. singles chart, and were intended to be the leadoff singles to an album titled The Honeymoon, but the disappointing reaction from fans led to the album being scrapped, and a mixtape titled Blacklisted was released at the end of the year in its place. After keeping a low profile in 2013, Skepta came back in a big way the following year. He contributed a verse to a remix of "German Whip" by Meridian Dan, which became a Top 20 hit in May 2014. The following month, Skepta's single "That's Not Me" (which featured a guest verse by J.M.E.) was released, hitting number 21 on the charts. Both tracks were praised as helping to revitalize grime, and the latter was eventually named track of the year by FACT Magazine. Skepta's early 2015 single "Shutdown" was another U.K. Top 40 hit, and the MC received attention from Drake and Kanye West, joining the latter on-stage during the BRIT Awards. Skepta made his acting debut with a role in the 2015 crime drama Anti-Social, and worked on his long-delayed album Konnichiwa. The album was finally released by Boy Better Know in May of 2016, featuring guest appearances from Wiley, Pharrell Williams, and Novelist, in addition to his previous two hit singles. It debuted at number two on the British charts and earned vast critical acclaim, including the prestigious Mercury Prize. It was followed in 2017 with the Vicious EP, a short burst of six songs that featured appearances by Lil B, Section Boyz, and A$AP Rocky and A$AP Nast. ~ Jon O'Brien
- London, England
- September 19, 1982