How have you been enjoying the Kano record?
Robin: It’s fantastic. It’s a lot starker than his last record, but it’s a real showcase for him as an MC – there are some amazing moments.
Caitlin: It’s rad. Despite him moving on from talking directly about himself, there’s huge depth in the tracks. Sometimes it can feel like an artist discusses these sorts of issues… just because, but this feels really raw.
Robin: Completely. It feels very timely – the lessons about knife crime and gang culture are incredibly potent. And it’s very outward looking – the features from Popcaan and Kojo Funds take him somewhere new. That said, ‘Class Of Deja’ is a brilliant throwback moment. An all out banger! That’s key – he balances the meaning, with some fantastic club moments.
Have you always been Kano fans? What were you expecting with this one?
Robin: I’m a fan, yeah – I felt this one would be a progression of Made In The Manor, but it’s very distinct. It really exists on its own terms.
Caitlin: I, wrongly, expected more dancing at Dalston Superstore at 2am than substance. But, like Robin said, he’s really struck a wonderful balance between meaning and club bangers. I’ve always been a really big fan of Kano. I think I found him through D Double E’s early grime freestyles on YouTube.
Robin: Yeah and Kano vs Wiley on Lord Of The Mics is a classic.
So, is it a step up from Manor…? Or just different?
Robin: I felt Manor… had lots of amazing ideas but no one track to pull it altogether. So in that respect, this album’s slew of bangers is a step up.
Caitlin: It feels more mature. He’s made an album that’s current, politically and socially astute, but still touching on that format for some fun moments. His sounds also have a bit more clarity. Those eery, pan-pipes running through ‘Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil’ are SO FRESH.
Robin: Yes and Lil Silva’s production on ‘Got My Brandy’ is fantastic – so nuanced.
Did you watch the Aneil Karia ‘Trouble’ short? It seemed to bring the themes together…
Robin: Yeah I did – very powerful. It brought out the narrative aspect of his lyrics as well and made me consider the album as a whole entity, rather than just individual tracks.
Caitlin: Yes! It really tied a lot of the central themes together. I don’t think it’s a necessary watch to understand the album, but it definitely gives it a sense of togetherness. Those iPhone clips really hit home too.
Robin: Yeah it’s very stark, very honest. One of the things I like about the way Kano tackles those social themes is that it’s completely unvarnished. There’s no easy answers at all.
In terms of that narrative, those themes, are there any lines or samples that stuck in your mind?
Robin: The samples are incredible. I don’t know the full stories of each one, but it seems to be genuine community workers. The record feels like a very honest reflection of those communities.
Caitlin: For sure. Those samples really say “this is our reality”. It’s less about what needs to change and what could be done in the future, more immediate action. As ‘Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil’, Kano says “Let’s talk about it” over and over. It feels so NOW.
Robin: Yeah, there’s a real urgency and intensity to what he says. There are moments when the arrangement drops out completely but his flow is still incredibly intense – it’s a real testament to the musicality of UK rap.
Caitlin: Kano really emphasises the urgency for action. The arrangements and flow fit that urgency too. There’s a lot of chopping and changing in the arrangement and flow.
You’ve mentioned ‘Class Of Deja’ – are there any other tracks that blew you away? ‘SYM’ took me by surprise!
Robin: I really like ‘Pan-Fried’ with Kojo Funds. And yes, ‘SYM’ was quite a twist!
Caitlin: I really like how ‘Can’t Hold We Down’ hops on an R&B rhythm and turns it into this wicked UK rap hybrid. And Kojo in ‘Pan-Fried’ is really refreshing. ‘SYM’ was… not expected. It’s so… unassuming with that lovely little twinkly piano and then… oh. suck your mum? k cool.
Is it strange to think of Kano as the elder statesman of UK rap?
Caitlin: He’s always been up there for me with the godfathers Wiley and D Double E. I’m not really sure what UK rap and grime would be without them, to be honest.
Robin: Kano is really influential – like he draws from grime and hip-hop and dancehall while having his own sound, so it’s almost a forebear of the way Dave or AJ create music.
Caitlin: Definitely – he’s paved the way for experimenting in rap music, and pulling on other genres to give his sound a unique edge.