In the last few years, the MOBOs have attracted a fair bit of flack for handing out statues to artists that are somewhat unrepresentative of contemporary black music. In 2014 Jessie J was able to pick up a gong for Best Female Act, an impressive four years after she stopped contributing anything important to modern music whilst white-boy balladeer Sam Smith swept the rest of the board, much to the chagrin of anyone who had even a minor investment in the musical landscape the MOBOs were created to represent.
This year seemed a marked improvement on all that with Krept and Konan, Stormzy, Section Boys, Fuse ODG and Skepta winning most of the big awards. The only shocker was Ella Eyre winning over Little Simz for best female, and even that could have been worse, it could have been Jess Glynne.
Yet there was still one utterly perplexing judgement last night. The panel selecting noted human turd CeeLo Green as the recipient of the 2015 award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
CeeLo’s presence at the MOBOs seemed to confuse a large majority of viewers. Some chose to comment on his bizarre bronze #waveygarms, with comparisons ranging from cruel playground jibes like “fat aunty at a hall party” to the culinary inspired “Ferrero Rocher”. Others became vexed at his irrelevance, especially when Album of the Year winners Krept and Konan were forced to cut their speech short so CeeLo could take to the stage with a performance that was faded out to the credits before he was even halfway through his most famous song.
To me that's what the MOBOs should be about.. artists like Krept and Konan… cutting their speech short to hear Ceelo Green is dead
— Empress Kira (@ShakiraSays) November 4, 2015
They cut krept and Konan short for ceelo green in the uk. This is why we struggle for our scene to be taken serious. I'm gonna shut up now x
— Lilz-OfficialMediaPR (@LilzOfficial) November 4, 2015
Looming large over his entire gold-trussed appearance was an ugly history of homophobic comments, charges of sexual assault and rape denial. In short, Green’s booking is representative of one of the MOBOs biggest failures: the ability to properly recognise and reward women and queer artists in black music. Despite 4 of the 10 performers last night being women, only 2 took home any award from a possible 12 categories. And queer recipients of a MOBO? Forget it.
CeeLo, of course, would presumably be fine with the way the awards were dished out. This is a man who tweeted “People enjoyed last night! I’m guessing you’re gay? And my masculinity offended you? Well f**k you!” at a critic in 2011, and then thought a valid defence of this comment was, “I didn’t know what gender the person was.” If that doesn’t bring back fond memories, what about the time when he shared his musings concerning the definition of rape, as he appeared as a defendant in a sexual battery case? CeeLo tweeted that "women who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!” and that "If someone is passed out they're not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent." Later, he failed to repent for the tweets, bullishly tweeting that he wanted to “sincerely apologize for my comments being taken so far out of context”.
But even with the litany of garbage things Cee-Lo has done, there still remains the question of how the MOBO judges even dragged CeeLo’s moniker from the damp confines of their long-term memories, when the man hasn’t released a new record since 2010. What has Cee Lo ‘achieved’ in music exactly? "Crazy" may have ushered in a new era of digital downloads, but it was produced as part of the Gnarls Barkley pairing with Danger Mouse, and we now all agree it’s one of the most annoying songs in the world.
Perhaps Green’s most recognised solo work is 2010’s The Lady Killer which enjoyed similar critical acclaim as its 2004 predecessor CeeLo Green…Is the Soul Machine and gifted us all with a sonic middle finger to our exes in the form of "Fuck You" - a hit that was actually written by Bruno Mars. Yet the long term impact his body of work has had upon black music has been slight, if any. CeeLo makes old-fashioned, robust soul songs. He serves up skittering disco or oozing late night slow jamz. “Bright Lights, Bigger City” is alright for the occasional spin while you’re getting ready to go to go to a 2 drinks for £3 student night, and you’re well within your rights to queue “Fool For You” next to “One Mo’Gin” on your seduction playlist. But look for his lasting influence on today’s artists, and he comes up incredibly short - in fact if any of you can find any interview where a cool young black artist says, “Yeah, I was listening to a lot of CeeLo Green when I made this record”, please do let me know.
Instead, his MOBO win is a gloomy occasion. Despite the decreasing significance of award ceremonies in an evolving industry, the MOBOs still carries some clout for black musicians. What message does it send when someone like Cee Lo-is acclaimed for minimal contribution to the musical conversation and has his many, highly publicised fucks ups neatly glossed over as a result? Slowly but surely, it had seemed that the mainstream was beginning to include artists who would previously be ignored in the blustering pomp and circumstance of major events likes these. Wheeling out CeeLo shows a lack of imagination and an even bigger dearth of sensitivity to the communities the MOBOs should be straining to involve. They have only given out a lifetime achievement award a few times before. If they didn’t have a slot they had to fill, why not wait till someone of worth was available?
Instead they chose an American with a nasty track record who gave a two sentence acceptance speech and then launched into a song we got sick of nearly a decade ago. Lauding musicians despite their grossly unacceptable behaviour is dangerous, and it's not just the MOBOs who have something to answer for. It’s too late to take away Chris Brown’s Grammy, but our award shows need to wake up to the fact that they can’t keep patting the backs of men with a history of violence against women. In a fantastic year for black British music, and a good year for the MOBOs, we need to be careful who we say our heroes are.
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