Kano, Islington Academy, London
The crossover kid is a one-man grime wave
Sunday 22 January 2006
It's a prophecy which - the first half, at least - has proven eerily accurate. Home Sweet Home, the debut album from Kano, a 20-year-old grime MC, has earned him a shot at Best British Urban Act in next month's gongfest and, assuming he can stay at the ceremony long enough to collect it, this East Ham kid is looking like a pretty strong bet to win.
Because while Young White London is all aboard the steam locomotive backwards to a halcyon, guitarry golden age of Albion under the command of Driver Doherty, Young Black London is pushing things forward.
"Why do they like me?" he asks on "Sometimes", "There's about a thousand others like me/ Spitting lyrics on the mic..." And it's true. Call it grime, call it Brit-hop, call it UK garage, but the capital is alive with an exponentially multiplying urban music scene which defies analysis. What's undeniable, though, is that this scene is making music which is truly indigenous, uniquely "London". It is, to borrow that nauseating cliché, quintessentially English.
The speed with which it's moving presents a problem for the dip-in, dip-out punter and Kano, who is signed to 679 Recordings (home of The Streets) and has collaborated with Paul Epworth and Bloc Party, is the latest crossover kid. Hence tonight's show, on a Carling New Kings bill featuring The Magic Numbers and Graham Coxon.
Taking the stage in a "Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee" T-shirt (he ain't short of confidence) in front of industrial arc lights, Kano doesn't roll alone. His sidekicks Demon and Ghetto (fellow former members of N.A.S.T.Y Krew) fulfil dual roles - one spitting rhymes even faster than the man himself, the other providing smooth vocals à la Nate Dogg - while his Rodman-tall DJ spins tracks, made with Cubase and Logic on those CD decks that look like Electrolux hobs.
"I can speak rock, grime, hip hop and more," he promises, and he's as good as his word: this is a man who's equally happy rapping over Latin jazz ("Remember Me") or metal ("I Don't Know Why"). When he's finished, his hardcore fans - boys in hoodies, girls in hoop earrings - stand out a mile as they weave out through the crowd. They aren't sticking around for The Magic Numbers: this crossover is a one-way street.
Kano's future may not be my future, but it's a future. For that alone, give the man a prize.
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