The Boston Music Awards unofficially declared 2018 the year of the breakthrough Wednesday night, naming hip-hop flag-bearer Cousin Stizz artist of the year while handing other top prizes to indie-pop innovator Sidney Gish (album of the year, for her sophomore effort, “No Dogs Allowed”) and socially-minded rap ascendants Cliff Notez and Oompa (in new and unsigned artist categories, respectively).
The annual awards, introduced in 1987 to recognize the best and brightest in Boston’s music scene, were announced at a show at the House of Blues featuring live performances from winners as sonically varied as Ashley Jordan (country artist), the Devil’s Twins (rock artist), and Party Bois (dance/electronic artist).
With his victory, Stizz becomes the first hip-hop musician to receive the awards ceremony’s highest honor; the Dorchester-raised emcee released two three-track projects this year after making a second straight appearance at May’s Boston Calling. Gish, a 21-year-old Northeastern undergrad, had perhaps an even bigger year; her BMAs win arrives at the tail end of a 12-month period that brought about her first national tour (with Camp Cope and Petal), a six-date stint opening for indie-rock icon Mitski, and 4 million streams on Spotify.
Meanwhile, for Cliff Notez and Oompa, who recently appeared on each other’s anticipated debut albums — Notez’s “When the Sidewalk Ends” and Oompa’s “November 3rd” — the trophies capped off massive, profile-elevating years that had already felt like victory laps.
Worcester rapper Joyner Lucas — nominated for two Grammys earlier this week — was again awarded music video of the year, for “I’m Not Racist” (his winning vid last year was “Just Like You”). “I’m Not Racist” is also Grammy-nominated for best rap video.
Other repeats in artist categories included Jordan for country artist, SuperSmashBroz for DJ, Stizz for hip-hop artist, Bad Rabbits for R&B artist, and Jonathan Ulman for session musician.
Here’s the full list of winners announced Wednesday night:
Artist of the year: Cousin Stizz
New artist of the year: Cliff Notez
Unsigned artist of the year: Oompa
Live artist of the year: STL GLD
Album of the year: Sidney Gish, “No Dogs Allowed”
Song of the year: Latrell James, “Okay”
Music video of the year: Joyner Lucas, “I’m Not Racist
Alternative/indie artist of the year: Weakened Friends
Americana artist of the year: Twisted Pine
Blues artist of the year: Ali McGuirk
Country artist of the year: Ashley Jordan
DJ of the year: SuperSmashBroz
Dance/electronic artist of the year: Party Bois
Folk artist of the year: Honeysuckle
Hip-hop artist of the year: Cousin Stizz
International artist of the year: Soul Rebel Project
Jazz artist of the year: Gretchen & the Pickpockets
Metal artist of the year: Scissorfight
Pop artist of the year: Clairo
Punk/hardcore artist of the year: Street Dogs
R&B artist of the year: Bad Rabbits
Rock artist of the year: The Devil’s Twins
Singer-songwriter of the year: Aubrey Haddard
Vocalist of the year: Aubrey Haddard
Session musician of the year: Jonathan Ulman
Live production engineer of the year: Grace Reader
Studio producer of the year: Janos Fulop
Live music photographer of the year: Emily Gardner
Music promoter of the year: Christine Varriale (Allston Pudding)
Live music venue of the year: House of Blues
Intimate live music venue of the year: Great Scott
Music night of the year: Emo Night Boston
Live music residency of the year: Ali McGuirk First Fridays at Bull McCabe’s
Music publication of the year: Vanyaland
Music journalist of the year: Nina Corcoran
617Sessions artist winner: Oompa