Within our Black History Is Now series, Refinery29 is giving the floor to some of the most prominent black British men in the public eye. There's a prevalent conversation about black women not feeling valued within our own community, as well as in wider society. So, we've asked men to step forward and tell us about the women they're inspired by as part of our ongoing celebration of black British womanhood.
This time we hear from Karl "Konan" Wilson, better known as one half of the MOBO and BET Award-winning rap duo Krept and Konan. Ahead, he tells us about the face behind one of the biggest black music empires here in the UK and the lasting impact that the women in his own family have had on him. As told to Jazmin Kopotsha.
"Kanya King; she created the MOBOs and I feel that’s had a big impact on the UK scene. Like, there isn't another award that showcases black music. I grew up watching it and seeing everyone from Jay Z to Destiny's Child to So Solid. I remember two years before we won it I used to watch it at my friend's house – Luke from Disciples – I used to go to his house and it was like a ritual for us. We’d sit there and watch the MOBOs and be like, Next year. We're going to be there next year.
She won an MBE also and for a black woman to do that… Obviously the industry's male-dominated but to do that in the first place is huge. It’s massive. [She’s a] 100% shareholder – it's crazy, man. She's an inspiration for all the girls out there, she’s an inspiration for black people in general.
[When we first met her] it was a brief one, you know, because of all the chaos that's going on backstage. I was like Yeah, nice to meet you, we were nominated Best Newcomer. She said Oh, good luck man, all the best if you win. She didn't really give up hints on whether we won. It was just sick to be in the building to be fair.
There’s no one [else] really trying to put us on TV. The BRITs, I feel like they kind of just tolerate our scene. It’s like Yeah we’re going to tick off the box, we’re going to nominate one of them or two of them. They’re more focused on the Americans than our scene I’d say. Whereas the MOBOs champions all of us – from the underground up-and-comings to the more established artists in the same room. They’ve made it proper, something proper for us to have. The MOBOs is home, man.
There’s always going to be people saying negative stuff, but I just want people to realise the bigger picture and see what she’s created. From when we were kids 'til now, and it's still going. We look forward to coming and even the artists that are coming up, they all want to win a MOBO. Everyone's gonna have their opinions of who should have won and who shouldn't have but at the end of the day, it’s a pinnacle in our career. To win one is like a bucket list. If you're in the music game, or you're doing UK music, black music and you ain’t won a MOBO, it's a bit… Like, it’s a thing you need to do.
I feel like there should be a documentary on Kanya or something, just so people can be reminded. Because I feel like a lot of people are like Yeah, yeah. Kanya King. She does the MOBOs but no one really knows the depths of what it took to even start it and the hurdles and things that she had to go through. I don't really know the back story and it was probably difficult to get to these stages. Even getting on TV in the first place, a black music awards, without there being trouble. You know the stigma is that there’s going to be trouble, it’s going to get locked off, they shouldn’t do it, extra police… She's fought through all of that and kept it going how many years, you know what I mean? So I feel that we need to highlight that. Someone needs to show all the younger generations coming up what it took and who she is.
I’d want to know everything – the beginning until now. I like to see the hardships because everyone always sees the glamour and the awards show when it’s on TV but they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes and I feel like when they see that, they appreciate it more. They respect it more.
My mum [is a massive inspiration for me too]. She is like my rock, man. I don’t know where I’d be without my mum. My dad died when I was five. I’ve only had my mum really. I have my brothers, but it was more my mum and I've got little sisters, too. When I was getting in trouble in school, she was the one coming and getting me out and defending me against the teachers, even when I’m in the wrong sometimes. We’ve been through a lot as a family. I’ve got my little sisters as well, I’m close to the women in my family. The best advice my mum’s given me is to be a leader, not a follower."
Krept and Konan's new album 'Revenge Is Sweet' is out 1st November