Stormzy urged the music industry to take diversity more seriously, as he was honoured at Wednesday AIM Awards.
The rapper was named Diversity Champion for his efforts to “level the playing field” through his charities Merky Foundation and Merky Books.
“I encourage everyone in the room today to not just use diversity as a buzzword,” he said in his speech.
“Whatever position you’re in… let that be a driving factor, and not just see it as a quota or a box to tick.”
Addressing a room full of music industry executives, he stressed “the worth and the value” of embracing a wide range of voices in the workplace.
According to the latest figures from UK Music, 22% of people working in the music industry are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds; while women hold 49.6% of industry roles.
However, career progression for these groups remains sluggish, with representation tailing off in higher age and income brackets.
Stormzy’s Merky Foundation has pledged £10m over 10 years to organisations and charities “committed to fighting for racial equality, justice reform and black empowerment within the UK”.
It currently supports the Black Heart Foundation, which aims to improve access to education for underprivileged children, and partners with Cambridge University to award £20,000 scholarships to black students.
The AIM Awards celebrate achievement in the independent music sector, and Wednesday night’s ceremony also saw outstanding contribution awards for The Libertines and Lethal Bizzle – both of whom performed at the after party in London’s Roundhouse.
Soul singer Cleo Sol won best independent album for her thoughtful, intimate album Mother, which juxtaposes her feelings about becoming a new mother with the turbulent relationship she had with her own family.
Indie duo Wet Leg, whose debut album is up for this year’s Mercury Prize, won best breakthrough; while their fellow Mercury nominees Nova Twins won best track for the defiantly raucous Antagonist.
US singer Mitski, who supported Harry Styles on his UK tour this summer, was named best live performer, while pop alchemist Rina Sawayama took home the innovation award.
Up-and-coming artist Nia Archives was crowned this year’s “one to watch”, as she spearheads a revival in the jungle scene.
And London singer-songwriter Nilufer Yanya won the BBC 6 Music “difficult second album” prize for her critically-acclaimed record, Painless.
The winners’ trophies all carried the symbol for Autistic Pride Day, as part of AIM’s own commitment to diversity.
“Neurodiversity is a subject close to AIM’s heart with several neurodiverse members in the team, the wider community and our families,” said CEO Paul Pacifico in his opening speech.
“Music can and should be a safe and enabling environment for people who think and experience the world differently.”