Complete Guide: Kano

Complete Guide: Kano

"Girls like me but I ain't a sweet boy..."

Kane Robinson, better known as Kano, is one of the best known and most influential artists to come out of the early UK grime scene.

Bursting into the top tier in 2004 with underground hit and grime classic ‘Ps and Qs’, the East London artist quickly became known for his clever lyricism and fast, scattergun flow.

Back once more, Kano recently announced his sixth studio album ‘Hoodies All Summer’ with a short film and two new singles.

In celebration of his explosive re-emergence after three and a half years, we’ve explored his full run of studio albums, from ‘Home Sweet Home’ all the way through to ‘Made In The Manor’…

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‘Home Sweet Home’ (2005)

Coming at the tail end of the initial major label gold rush which followed Dizzee Rascals Mercury Prize winning album ‘Boy in Da Corner’, ‘Home Sweet Home’ is clearly a record on which Kano is trying to work out which direction he wants to go in.

Hard-hitting underground tracks like ‘P’s and Q’s’ and ‘Reload it’ rub shoulders uncomfortably with the more self-reflective ‘Sometimes’ and the outright bizarre ‘Typical Me’, which is an electric guitar-sampling mess. Despite the inconsistencies (many of which can be put down to some songs ageing better than others).

‘Home Sweet Home’ is an impressive achievement, especially considering Kano was just 19 when it was released. The rave reviews that greeted its release may not quite ring true 14 years on, but it’s still a bona-fide UK rap classic.

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‘London Town’ (2007)

Even the most talented musicians put a foot wrong sometimes, and ‘London Town’ was Kano doing just that. He described it as “Grime, but a little bit slower”, which in reality means the album drags itself along without much energy and doesn’t make an impact. Features from Kate Nash and Damon Albarn are equally misjudged, making this an project that’s probably best forgotten. 

It’s not all bad, with a brief burst of energy on ‘Buss It Up’ (featuring an excellent guest appearance by Jamaican dancehall legend Vybz Kartel) and ‘Bad Boy’ proving that Kano still knew how to bring the heat when he wanted to. Overall ‘London Town’ is a project to pick and choose a few favourites from, rather than play in its entirety.

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‘140 Grime Street’ (2008)

Self-Released just a year after ‘London Town’, ‘140 Grime Street’ sees Kano rediscovering his lane and sticking to it. Without a label pulling him into ill-advised collaborations and blind alleys, he’s back on form and doing what he does best – making some of the hardest grime around.

Whilst the solo tracks are nothing to be sniffed at, it’s when Kano’s going toe to toe with other grime originals that he really shines. ‘Anywhere We Go’, featuring Wiley, showcases two MCs at the top of their game, whilst Skepta’s feature and production on ‘These MCs’ results in one of the coldest tracks known to man.

‘140 Grime Street’ was a finger in the eye of the major label that had dropped him whilst simultaneously being a peace offering to the grime faithful. Kano was back, and he’d ditched the acoustic guitar for good.

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‘Method To The Maadness’ (2010)

By 2010, Kano had well and truly hit his stride and it shows on his fourth studio album ‘Method to the Maadness’. Long gone is the confused teenager trying to tread the line between major label pressures and his own vision. Instead Kano’s hopping between instrumentals with ease, even putting in production duties on two of the tracks (‘iPod Generation’ and ‘Maad)’.

There’s still a few too many awkward guitars being sampled, and there may not have been any breakout chart hits, but ‘Method To The Maadness’ is an album to be proud of and one of the few from grime’s fallow years that has stood the test of time.

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‘Made In The Manor’ (2016)

Six years after his last studio album, and four years since his last mixtape, Kano re-emerged on the grime scene.

The genre was revitalised after Skepta’s high profile comeback and the push into the mainstream consciousness that resulted, and it was unclear if Kano would still be able to make his voice heard above the rest.

‘Made in the Manor’ clears up any questions and then some. The opening salvo of ‘Hail’, ‘T-shirt Weather in the Manor’, ‘New Banger’ and ‘3 Wheel-ups’ should be enough to convince any doubters that Kano is still at the absolute top of his game.

The album is so strong that even the two additional bonus tracks, one of which features Jme, are stone cold classics. Praise duly rolled in, along with a Top 10 chart position and a well-deserved Mercury nod.

In the words of Kano himself on ‘New Banger’: “The ruler’s back”.

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Kano will release his new album 'Hoodies All Summer' on August 30th.

Words: Jake Hawkes

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