Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 95)
In 2005, Kano, born Kane Robinson, was pure potential. Jumping into a grime scene that seemed to be constantly on the verge of a global breakthrough, he seemed to be just the vanguard that grime needed. He enunciated, was less anxious than Dizzee, a better rapper than Skinner, had a less confrontational choice of beats, and was confident as all hell at the age of 20. His “P’s & Q’s” was an ultra-propulsive slab of *** talk that lept out of the already stacked deck that was Run the Road
and, on top of it all, he was really good looking.
Kano’s debut album Home Sweet Home
was the fulfillment of that promise that nobody heard. Despite being as good a debut as one could hope from Kano, it stiffed at 36 on the album chart, later prompting a wounded Kano to rap “I never sell more than an indie band”. It’s certainly not for lack of trying, Home Sweet Home
radiates confidence without shirking vulnerability. Throughout, Kano is completely assured in his abilities but not in his future success.
Kano fielded a lot of Jay-Z comparisons in his day and for good reason. They’re the kind of rappers that make other people start rapping because it just sounds so easy when they do it. On “P’s & Q’s” and its even better follow up “Reload It”, Kano disassembles the intimidating beats with the calm confidence of a seasoned session guitarist running through some scales. He’s a clever writer too, injecting little details that flesh out his time and place. Most MC’s would be content repping the touring lifestyle by claiming they love the road but on the title track Kano actually describes its appearance: “I love the road/The tarmac the white lines, the double yellows the zig zags and the bright lights”. Kano fulfills the Jay-Z comparisons through some production choices too, “I Don’t Know Why” is “99 Problems” by way of “War Pigs” while “Nite Nite” and “Green Eyes” glimmer like vintage Roc-a-Fella, though Hova would never use a refrain as tenderly vulnerable as the latter’s “But I don’t want to be in love”.
“It’s so real now, I've had dreams of this album [...] but I dunno if I'll make cream off this album,” Kano ponders on the somber “Sometimes”. Sucks to say, but he was right, despite a positive reception Home Sweet Home
underperformed after all its singles missed the top 20. After Home Sweet Home
flopped, Kano spun off the rails in pursuit of commercial success. The closest he got was London Town
, which went the full Craig David and still only got to 18 on the album charts. In his pursuit of commercial success, Kano never came close to the consistent quality of Home Sweet Home
and its failure to make waves is that in grime, for every Streets there were twenty Kano’s, MC’s bursting with talent and tunes that never got the attention they deserved.