Scottish Album of the Year award: Nova becomes first grime winner

Rhi Storer
·3-min read

The 2020 Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) award has gone to Edinburgh-based producer Nova for her debut album, Re-Up, the first grime record to win in the prize’s nine-year history.

While the ceremony was held in person in Edinburgh’s Summerhall arts complex and streamed to viewers, Nova (AKA 24-year-old Shaheeda Sinckler) accepted her trophy and £20,000 prize via video link as she self-isolates following a positive Covid-19 test.

The rapper becomes the youngest artist to win the prize. “It is such an incredible feeling to have won the 2020 SAY award just a couple of weeks shy of my 25th birthday,” said Nova, who has previously performed as Nova Scotia the Truth. “It is so affirming – any doubts that I might have had previously are now out of the window and I’m seriously so excited for the future.

“It hasn’t always been easy – there have been a lot of late nights, night buses and moments of uncertainty,” she added. “Winning this award has solidified my belief that hard work and determination bring results.”

It is a striking win for an artist who previously had just 337 monthly listeners on Spotify. Drawn from 362 eligible submissions, this year’s SAY shortlist featured more established artists including electronic outfit Blanck Mass and Orkney songwriter Erland Cooper. Previous winners include Young Fathers, Anna Meredith and Sacred Paws.

It shines a light on an album depicting a specific slice of young life in Edinburgh. Re-Up’s lyrics comment on afterparty culture, clubbing, crime and the socio-economic struggles faced by young people. It features beats from Scottish producers $1000 Wallet, Inkke and Kami-O.

Robert Kilpatrick, general manager of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), said Nova’s win “sends a powerful message of hope and ambition to Scotland’s music scene” during a period of immense financial struggle for the arts.

“It’s fitting that Re-Up explores tales of a young artist in modern-day Scotland struggling to keep financially afloat. The live sector is in urgent need of financial support, especially with the furlough scheme closing at the end of this month. Artists are struggling to sustain themselves, music businesses are closing, jobs are being lost, and with those losses, skill sets are leaving the industry, too.”

Unlike the £150 plus VAT fee required to submit an album for consideration for the Mercury prize, SAY is free for artists to enter. It is also open to any artist who has made Scotland their creative base for at least three years.

This year’s Mercury prize came under fire after the British-Japanese pop star Rina Sawayama said she was deemed ineligible for not holding a British passport, despite living in the UK since the age of four and having indefinite leave to remain. Sawayama has said the BPI is reviewing its eligibility rules pertaining to nationality.

Related: Sign up for the Sleeve Notes email: music news, bold reviews and unexpected extras

The 10 albums nominated for this year’s SAY included eight debuts, the most to ever appear on the shortlist. The nine runners up received £1,000 each.

The previous winners of the award were: Auntie Flo’s Radio Highlife (2019), Young Fathers’ Cocoa Sugar (2018), Sacred Paws’ Strike a Match (2017), Anna Meredith’s Varmints (2016), Kathryn Joseph’s Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled (2015), Young Fathers’ Tape Two (2014), RM Hubbert’s Thirteen Lost and Found (2013) and the inaugural winner Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat’s Everything’s Getting Older (2012).