Kano was part of a wave of new British urban artists who came from the underground, and put the UK on the map. Hip hop had always been a genre pretty much exclusively owned by our US cousins. For the first time, we held our ground and matched anything that was being done across the ocean. The likes of Tinie Tempah, Tao Cruise, and Tinchy were not just being played in the clubs, but on the radio and in the charts. It’s a legacy that has continued, and the UK has gone from strength to strength, continuing to produce amazing hip hop and R&B music. One of those trailblazers was Kano, AKA London boy Kane Robinson. This month sees the release of album number five, and he is out to prove he is just as relevant as he was when he crawled out of the underground, and into the mainstream.
What hit me upon first listen of ‘Made In The Manor’ was the way it mixed up different styles and genres with such ease. It is an album that never stands still. Last year he released a video for ‘New Banger’, which is featured on the album, and is without doubt the grimiest thing on there. It’s a chaotic assault on the ears. The kind of thing your parents would call ‘just noise’. But to anyone with even a passing interest to the grime scene would agree what a huge anthem it is. It’s hectic, it’s noisy, it’s intense. But Kano is first and foremost a poet. Although at the start of the track it’s all about the insane production, by the end it withers down to a minute long monologue. But that’s all the way at track three.
The album kicks off with full on rock infused opener ‘Hail’. Mixing guitars with hip-hop beats is not a new idea, but it’s one that is rarely pulled off with such finesse. Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Deathcamp’ for example was the last time such a crossover was done so well. This is how Kano chooses to kick off album number five, and couldn’t set off with a bigger bang. On track two, ‘T-shirt Weather In The Manor,’ he changes direction again to a mellower piano-lead track. Whilst he is the master of the big grime tracks, he can also deliver rhymes with more of a social conscience. On ‘A Roadman’s Hymn’ for example he tells us, ‘gangsters are like superheroes to us. More chance of being them than a lawyer or doc’. On ‘Little Sis’ he shows us a more sensitive side, on his tribute to his estranged younger sister. Lyrically it is the most emotional he gets on the album. Then there’s ‘Drinking In The West End’ which is a huge summer anthem that will sound great in the sun (if we ever get any).
There are a couple of collaborations on the album. He stays well in his comfort zone, teaming up with fellow first men of grime Giggs and Wiley. But no one would have expected Blur frontman Damon Albarn on ‘Deep Blues’. It took me a while to place his voice, but it works. It’s a great crossover track.
What really makes this album so special is its consistency. Whilst many albums can start killer, and end up filler, ‘Made In The Manor’ manages to stay on a level throughout. It was Kendrick Lamar who took the crown in 2015 to create the year’s most loved hip hop album, amongst both critics and fans alike. If you believe the hype, then you’d be left thinking that Kanye was the front runner for 2016 (although most of that hype is probably from Mr. West himself). But I’m marking round one down to the UK, and giving the edge to Kano. It’s bee six years since his last album ‘Method To The Maadness’ (thanks auto spell for not changing that one), and it’s safe to say he has well and truly returned in style.
For more on Kano, go to his official website, or on his social media.