Home Sweet Home
Uncut, late summer 2005
by Simon Reynolds
has reached a crossroads. Everyone agrees that this is the year it’s
going to blow, but nobody knows for sure how to make that happen. One
strategy is for grime to simply be its in-yer-face self. Another
involves toning it down just a tad. This is what Kano, one of the
scene’s top MCs, does on his long-awaited debut: downplay’s grime’s
adrenalin-jolting, abrasively avant-garde aspects in favour of midtempo
grooves and listener-friendly gloss. In Kano’s case, though, this shift
suits the exquisite poise and panache of his delivery. Unlike the aggy
bluster of most grime MCs, it’s easy to imagine him winning over Jay-Z
fans with the slick sinuousness of lines like “I’m trying to perfect my
flow/So my dough grows loads/Like Pinocchio’s nose.”
understands that uncut grime can get wearing over the length of an
album. So he and his handlers’ solution is to pull together a
well-sequenced smorgasbord of faintly calculated versatility, ranging
from turgid metal (“Typical Me”) to the deliciously frivolous “Remember
Me”, a samba novelty similar to Roll Deep’s hilarious “Shake A Leg”.
Ripping the monster riff and drum rolls from Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and
adding scratching and cowbell, “I Don’t Know Why” comes off as an
awesome Def Jam tribute, right down to the nasal, Beasties-like tang to
Kano’s vocal. “Signs in Life,” meanwhile, offers stirring orchestration
and semi-conscious lyrics about maintaining a steady course despite the
slings and arrows.
Unsurprisingly, the most exciting
cuts on the record are the grimiest. The fogeyish (for a 19 year old!)
whinge “Nobody Don’t Dance No More” cuts from sexy, swingin’
to bombastic, ungroovy grime to illustrate how kids today nod their
heads to the MC’s words rather than shake booty to the DJ’s beats.
Equally scene-reflexive, “Reload It” in contrast celebrates the MC’s
ascent to supremacy, noting how crowds today demand that DJs rewind a
track to hear favorite rhymes, as opposed to the tune's breakdown or
intro. Pivoting around a phased riff and live-sounding drums that recall
the Experience’s Mitch Mitchell as much as peak-era jungle, “Reload It”
is a pure rush of energy and euphoria.
Yet the best track on Home turns
out to be the most subdued one. “Sometimes” compellingly captures a
moment of precariousness and self-doubt in the young MC’s upward arc.
“I know I’ve got far/Is it too far to turn back?” he muses over a
sad-eyed glide of synth-and-violin. Poised in limbo between the fickle
streets and a potentially unswayed mainstream, Kano’s reverie serves as a
poignant allegory for grime’s own crossover dilemma.
INTERVIEW WITH KANO
grime cliché is the ravenously hungry MC for whom music is the only
escape route from ghetto life. But it seems like you were spoiled for
choice, with career opportunities ranging from university to
professional football. In “9 to 5” you rap about not letting “my
laziness ruin” your MC prospects like it did with soccer.
used to play for Norwich, the schoolboys team. But it was far away and I
was quite young, to be doing all that travel. I wasn’t feeling it. So
that faded out. It wasn’t a conscious choice between football and music,
though, it was like different stages of my life.”
by the classic early single “Boys Love Girls,” a bonus track on the
album, your songs have a rather cold-hearted attitude to romance. Even
on the rhythm-and-grime track “Brown Eyes,” you’re besotted, but the
chorus still insists “I don’t want to fall in love”.
ain’t really a romantic person. I’ve had experience with girls, but not
that much experience with relationships. My view on them is that I
don’t really want to get involved. ”