Scotland

Who are the Young Fathers?

Young Fathers Image copyright Young Fathers

On Wednesday night, Edinburgh-based trio Young Fathers won the Mercury Prize - cue a social media chorus of people saying the prize was well-deserved, and a few honest souls admitting they'd never heard of them before.

It's a forgivable offence, as the band has sold less than 2,500 copies of the winning record, Dead, to date. As the BBC's Colin Paterson put it: "Almost no-one owns this album."

But the Young Fathers beat 14-1 odds and competition from Damon Albarn, Bombay Bicycle Club and favourite FKA Twigs to win the £20,000 prize.

So, who are they?

The band is comprised of Alloysious Massaquoi, originally from Liberia, Graham 'G' Hastings, from Drylaw in Edinburgh, and Scots-born Kayus Bankole, whose parents are Nigerian.

They officially formed in 2008, after meeting in an under-18s hip-hop night at The Bongo Club in Edinburgh, when they were just 14. The night was part of a pulsing Edinburgh hip-hop scene, which the club's manager Ally Hill describes as "a chaotic swarm of energy and creativity".

"I did a wee dance when I heard them win," he told the BBC. "Great for Edinburgh, great for the Edinburgh hip-hop scene, great for the guys themselves... Everybody likes them."

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Media caption"Dead" beat 11 other records to win the Mercury Prize 2014

After they met on the dance floor, the boys agreed to start making music together. "We started recording when we were younger and ever since then we've just been family really," Hastings told the BBC's Colin Paterson after their win.

A few years after forming, they recorded Tape One - a self-produced EP made in one week and ready to release within two.

The BBC's Zane Lowe and Vic Galloway are fans, and Young Fathers made weekly shows for 1Xtra throughout October 2013. They've toured the US, UK and Europe, with pit-stops in Australia, Japan and Russia.

The Mercury Prize isn't their first accolade. In June, the group won Scottish Album of the Year - another £20,000 prize - for their EP Tape Two, which earned them the interest of their American record label Anticon.

What do they sound like?

Though the media have made noble efforts to pin down their sound to one genre - invariably hip-hop - their music sidesteps classification.

"It's not strictly hip-hop and none of us are that bothered or have any loyalty to hip-hop," said Hastings. "We didn't ever want to be a band that is one genre… the three of us bonded over putting things together that wouldn't usually go together."

It may just be this fresh approach that won them the Mercury Prize. According to Simon Frith, who chaired this year's Mercury judging panel: "Young Fathers have a unique take on urban British music, brimming with ideas - forceful, unexpected and moving."

What's next?

The band is now signed to Big Dada and are working on their next album.

For now, they're looking forward to the wider audience that the reward will bring.

"We've never been a band that's wanting to be underground," Hastings said after winning the prize. "We go in the studio and do what we want on our terms and then selfishly want everybody to hear it. So for us, the more people that hear us, that's all we ever wish for."

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