Interview: Kano

Interview: Toby Keenan
Tuesday 10 May 2005
reading time: min, words

"Even I don't know how to describe my music. Each song is different. I just call it hiphop and I don't call it grime"

Fresh as Kane Robinson is, he should need no introduction to anyone who’s been paying attention to the UK music scene in 2005.

You might have heard streetwise bouncer P’s and Q’s rinsed on Channel U, follow-up single Typical Me (feat. Ghetto) rocked on MTV and 1xtra or his Come Dancing influenced next single Remember Me getting airtime on Radio One as you read this. Cha cha cha.

You might even have seen him supporting both The Streets and Nas on UK tours, Roots Manuva in Scotland, or caught his sessions for Radio One’s Breezeblock and the Westwood rap show. With a face made for the likes of (the departed) Face magazine, Kano has been hot as hell this year, and has a cross-over appeal bound to earn him even wider recognition when his album drops on 679 recordings in a few weeks time.

Kano hasn’t come out of nowhere, having spent three years on the airwaves and on the mic at garage raves before his first recognized track Boys Love Girls started to make waves. The tune seemed to strike a chord with youngsters of the so-called ‘playstation generation’, not quite ‘I Luv U’, but a teenagers anthem nonetheless. It’s a tune Kane still performs for his fans and the one that got his voice out there and noticed. His talent was recognized on a larger scale with the 2004 Best Newcomer at the Urban Music Awards and a tip for the top from the BBC’s Sound of 2005 industry poll (Keane, 50 Cent and The Scissor Sisters were the selected names to watch in 2004).

Comparisons with Mercury Music Prize winner Dizzee Rascal are perhaps obvious and coarse, but give a useful indication of where Kano is coming from. Both artists hail from the East side of the big smoke. Both have a background based in pirate radio stations and garage shows. Both have shifted musical tack from rhyming on the kind of beats you’d unhesitatingly call ‘garage’ into the ever-developing grey area between hip-hop, garage and dancehall that has never been entirely sure what to call itself, despite finding partial solace in the moniker ‘grime’. (Notts’ own hip-hop group Smokes’n’Bluntz have got some heavy material in this vein, by the way). But this much these guys have in common with scores of London MCs. It’s doubtful there could ever be a ‘new Dizzee’ and it certainly isn’t Kano but similar to Dizzee, he’s a likeable personality with a maturity and focus that defies his tender years and a quality of overall package that could possibly lead to significant record sales overseas. Indeed, the New Yorker review of the Run the Road compilation (679 recordings), on which Kano features heavily, claims:

Americans who are put off by British accents and grime slang like “nekkle” (great, very cool) and “bare” (lots of, many) will warm to Kano. His delivery on the song “P’s and Q’s,” a comically fastidious call to arms, is so composed that it is almost polite, even when he’s rhyming in double time: “This year’s gotta be mine, I’m the first in line. Wow, you got your first rewind, but the second line sounded like the first line. I ain’t got punch lines, I’ve got kick lines, and they ain’t commercial, but I’ve got hit lines.”

After much hassle (another story) Kano came through with a quick interview for Left Lion:

Is the question of ‘what d’you call it?’ about your music getting annoying?

Well, even I don’t know how to describe my music. Each song is different so I can’t really describe the whole music. I just call it Hip Hop and I don’t call it Grime.

Your album is dropping in a few weeks. What can we expect?

A. It hasn’t got a name yet, but it’s coming out in early June. I’m still really concentrating on that. Making a good album is more important than the sales or whatever. It’s more of if I can sit back and say the album has paid off. That I’ve made a good album; one that you can listen to from the start to the finish.

Your single Typical Me seems to be taking a dig at club bouncers. Have any of them taken offence?!

The single is just about raving and having dramas in nightclubs. It’s about getting kicked out and that. Funny thing is I think some bouncers took it as me having a go at all of them, but it isn’t, it’s just stories about the experiences you go through.

How is all this new fame suiting you? We’ve even seen you in The Sun recently!

Well it would be nice if you could be unknown and sell as many records. The main thing which surprised me is the amount of press you have to do and I haven’t even got an album out yet.

OK Kano, point taken….

You can catch Kano performing live, with fellow NASTY crew members Demon and Ghetto, at Camouflage on 13 May 2005.

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