EDINBURGH rapper and producer Nova has had a record-breaking year of the SAY Award, while accepting the award from isolation.

Breaking records as the youngest ever winner in The SAY Award’s nine-year history and the first rap/grime album to win the award, 24 year old Nova (Shaheeda Sinckler) accepted her trophy and £20,000 prize remotely via video link, as she isolates following a positive COVID-19 test. The news was revealed live on stage by Nova’s manager Sof Staune (VAJ Power), with Nova’s initial shock reaction caught live on camera. Listen to the album here.

Speaking about the award, Nova said, “It is such an incredible feeling to have won the 2020 Scottish Album of the Year Award, just a couple of weeks shy of my 25th birthday! 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. I’m excited to keep on this upwards trajectory, thrilled to encounter new experiences and take my professionalism to the next level. To think that my manager and I had no idea where we would end up when we started working together and now to have made it here is just fantastic! It hasn’t always been easy – there have been a lot of late nights, night buses and moments of uncertainty, to name a few challenges, but winning this award has solidified my belief that hard work and determination bring results. So don’t call me lucky because I worked my butt off to move forward – and you can too. There is so much possibility in the air and I feel so free, nurturing old bonds and making new ones is what I can see on the horizon. I’ve already begun working on my next project and I cannot wait to see how THAT is received. I’m sending much love and blessings to everyone who made this possible.”

Watch the highlights of the 2020 Ceremony on BBC iPlayer here.

General Manager of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), Robert Kilpatrick said, “Nova’s SAY Award win for ‘Re-Up’ sends a powerful message of hope and ambition to Scotland’s music scene at a time it’s never been needed more. At 24 years old, Nova is the youngest ever winner of The SAY Award, and in another first, ‘Re-Up’ winning sees a rap/grime title enter The SAY Award’s eclectic genre fold of winners.

‘Re-Up’ is Nova’s debut body of work. Poignant social commentary and unfiltered truth is set against the backdrop of bassy trap, lo-fi hip hop and heavy grime, resulting in a record which is well crafted, authentic and necessary. The fact it was delivered with the support of a range of local producers from across Scotland only goes to show the passion, strength and innovation of Scotland’s growing hip-hop/rap/grime scene, which I’m delighted that The SAY Award is shining a bright and well-deserved spotlight on through Nova’s win.

At 18 minutes long and containing 6 tracks, ‘Re-Up’ was the shortest album on this year’s 10-strong Shortlist. With many acts from across the hip-hop/rap/grime scene traditionally creating and releasing shorter form bodies of work compared to their counterparts in other genres (and the reasons for doing so not simply being just due to style), it’s encouraging to see an award like SAY be able to encapsulate and celebrate music of all kinds and genres from across Scotland, and reflect the changing ways in which music is recorded, released and ultimately consumed in 2020. Accessibility is absolutely key for this project, and this is reflected at every stage of The SAY Award process. From no submission fee to enter, to a progressive idea of what defines a ‘Scottish Artist’ (anyone who’s made Scotland their creative base for at least three years is eligible), to our definition of an album (a body of work containing at least 6 tracks and/or being over 30 minutes in length), The SAY Award continually strives to be by and for, and representative of, Scotland and Scotland’s music industry.

Nova’s win challenges the idea of what an album actually is in 2020, as whilst ‘Re-Up’ may be short in length, it’s impact and resonance as a body of work is nothing short of powerful. In an age where streaming dominates music consumption, artists and labels are met with new pressures around what they should release and how they should release it. These external factors are continually moving, and they vary from genre to genre, where consumer tastes and behaviour have developed in different ways.

In the context of 2020, ‘Re-Up’ winning The SAY Award feels incredibly special. Scotland’s music industry is facing catastrophic challenges, and the live sector in particular 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. The very infrastructure of what generated £5.2 billion for the UK economy in 2018 is crumbling, and if it’s not saved now, it will vanish, and the impact will be sorely felt for decades to come – not just by the music industry, but by all of us who benefit from having music in our lives.

Whilst the current challenges are plentiful, and the impact of those challenges painful, never has it been more important for us to celebrate our music and culture. By celebrating, we help further articulate its value, increase its visibility and stimulate opportunity for our artists and music scene at a time it’s never been needed more.

Music is about so much more than just money, but money is absolutely essential to keep the artists we love and the industry which supports them afloat. Music’s about us connecting; understanding both ourselves and each other better, and ultimately discovering more about the world around us. It’s fitting that ‘Re-Up’ explores tales of a young artist in modern day Scotland struggling to keep financially afloat. These challenges poignantly mirror challenges that many of us in music face today, and in the articulation of these challenges through the creation of ‘Re-Up’, Nova now finds herself in a position where the future presents opportunity, recognition and ultimately hope. This is something that can and should inspire us all.”

Photo by Rory Barnes.