KANO INTERVIEW:

Last week Kano kicked off the first date of his ‘Made In The Manor’ Tour at  Pumpehuset in Copenhagen with a stunning live show that got a rapturous and rowdy crowd fired up on a dead cold, sleepy Wednesday night. Presented by Droz Daily Steezin’ & Pumpehuset this was the latest in a series of recently regular Grime shows in Copenhagen.

As a fan you would come to these local shows anyway, because you know they’re not that often and it’s important to be there when they are on. You gotta get out and make time and with passions you know you’re going to be into it no matter what. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for. As a performer, Kano was super professional, engaging, entertaining  and with the added bonus of a sweet soulful tone to his live voice. The show knocked the crowd on their ass.

Kano whips up Pumpehuset
Kano whips up Pumpehuset. Photo: Samy Khabthani

The warm up was superbly judged by Daniel Drux with a couple of strong local newcomers to check out and a selection of new classic tunes and banter that made it easy to hang out and get warmed. It set the stage perfectly. Lyrically Kano was just as smart and sharp live as he is on record but this was not just a display of spitting bars; the welcome surprise that gave the evening it’s extra shot of excited human experience was the soulful tone and melodies that stitched the show together. Directed by a skilled entertainer the timing and pace never let up and the moments of special came tumbling one after the other throughout the show. By any standards it was a wild show and while there would always be an interest in seeing one of the key figures in Grime from the last 10 years it was a heartwarming sight to share the excitement with so many others. The crowds reaction told as much about how large an influence Grime and UK styles hold worldwide but also how rooted this culture now is in Copenhagen. The audience proved themselves versed and schooled on all fronts, offering a big warm welcome while shouting the lyrics of very early Kano tunes like ‘P’s & Q’s’ aswell as tracks from the recently released album back at him, to surprised smiles from the young veteran MC.

We met up to talk with Kano 2 days later when he returned from Stockholm for a day off in Copenhagen before heading on towards Belgium.

So that was the first date of the new tour which was a pretty good start.

Yeah, yeah, that was day one and it was a good start. It’s like my brother, who’s my dj, was just saying, it’s the unknown, because when we tour the UK we know what London is going to be like, what Manchester is going to be like…where’s going to be the most hype, where people are the craziest and where not. Here it was just the unknown. They were really up for it this, it was a good vibe.

I was taken aback by people shouting the lyrics to some of your old tunes at you and it was clear they had listened to the new album as well ?

It’s been surprising as well because when we toured the UK the album had only been out for a week and half and we didn’t plan it that way. I wanted people to have a bit more time to learn the lyrics but when we done the shows people just knew the words. It’s crazy and the day before yesterday at the show it really surprised me ‘Mic Check’ and ’P’s & Q’s  was going off. ‘This is England’ off the new album really surprised me too, they were singing it back. They really knew the old and new. 

Kano. Photo-by-Samy-Khabthani
Kano. Photo-by-Samy-Khabthani

I think on the album lyrically it comes through on first listen, usually it takes a while for what’s being said to become clearer but the new album is very distinct in that way, referencing back but also describing the here and now. In particular a tune like ‘This is England’ sums that up.

I think the album demands your attention in a way, it intrigues you and it draws you in and makes you wanna listen to the lyrics. I put a lot of focus on the story and the lyrics and the deeper content but also the energy that came later in the recording process, but …the lyrics, that was the most important thing to me and the music was just there to accompany that and be the vehicle to tell that story.

Was the album a long time in the making ?

Yeah. Phew. 3 years ! I was conscious of that feeling of an album. Most people don’t really care about the album anymore. During that 3 years making it I was thinking… am I like stupid doing this, people are just putting out singles, making mixtapes,  just like whatever. I stuck to my guns and was frustrated that it took so long, but kinda proud that it happened that way. They’re the type of artists I like, people that put out albums. I grew up on Nas in terms of hip hop and even the stuff Kendrick is doing now with his records and how complete it sounds as a body of work, the arc and the instrumentation. That don’t happen in few weeks !

Some of the heads tonight were describing you as a legend. But you are still a very young to be a legend. Mature and experienced for sure but still young.

We started young. (laughing) 

How did the collaborations with JME and Damon Albarn come about on the album?

JME I specifically asked him for music. He produced that song ‘Flow Of The Year’. I just wanted to hear what he thought would be good for me to spit on. He sent me 5 tunes and I liked this one and then we worked on it and then I got him to do the intro after, so that was more a musical thing. With Wiley and Giggs I done that production with Swifta Beater for ‘3 Wheel Ups’ and decided to get them on after. I knew I wanted it but… . you know what the album is like. It’s my story, its hard to get anyone else involved  but when i heard that beat I knew this was the one, were I could bring some MC’s in. 

Wiley is obviously a major influence in my career. Where the album is talking about past and my road through music it felt fitting to reach out to someone like him who played such a big role in the whole East London and the Grime scene. Then I got Giggs who’s a good friend of mine, but on this he’s like spitting double time when he normally spits a bit slower. He gave me something really special. With Damon I had that song ‘Deep Blues’ and I went to him a couple of times along the way to show him where I was at during the record. This one particular time I went in he asked questions about the song and he felt he could do something with that and I didn’t have the chorus at the time and I left it with him and he done that.

Tell me about *This is England’ and the line about how you can be be a ‘Victim or a Villain’. It’s kind of a state of the nation piece, quite political and describing where it’s at now. How do you think about England now ?

That’s just me saying how it is, my England and what I know it as. ‘You could be a victim or a villain’. It’s just dog eat dog. You gotta go out and get yours. No one ain’t gonna help you from where we’re from. No one ain’t gonna give you no hand outs. You gotta go and take what’s yours.

 

It’s quite a grim picture even though watching the news its obvious that things are quite rough there.

Yeah, last night at the show in Stockholm this girl from Sweden who lives in Atlanta had no idea what it was like. Her perception of England was completely different… that everyone was well off, that there was no real trouble…. you know the classic drinking tea and all that. She thought it was like that but her friend that had been to Peckham, where Giggs is from actually, she had seen the real side of England, where the real normal people live. Peoples perception versus what I’m saying on the record is quite different.

Its not all bad though, even on the record you reference Sam Cookes ‘Change Is Gonna Come’ which is about being in a bad place but ultimately a really hopeful song.

Yeah yeah ‘a change is gonna come for the masses’. It’s that harsh reality but optimism. It can be ok, you will find your way. You gotta have some kinda hopefulness about it. That’s the message I want to give to the people where I’m from. I know what it’s like. If anything I could lead by example or be living proof that you can do something, end up in another country performing music or make it in whatever field you choose.  On a ‘Roadmans Hymn’  there is a lyric saying ‘Kids see me on road and feel uplifted’ you know, I’m still around so they can see me and be inspired by me so hopefully it’s optimistic for them.

Your Merchandise has the phrase ‘The Endz’ on it and the album refers to ‘Manor’ How would you explain the meaning of that to an alien ? 

I guess Americans say the ‘hood, taken from neighbourhood, in Jamaica they say the Garrison, that’s the ghetto. In England we say endz. My endz would be east london. It’s just your area, my area is not called endz, it could relate to anywhere. Wiley’s endz is Bow. I guess Manor comes from house. That’s my Manor !

Grime compared to when it came out first is much broader and bigger right ? It seems now to be reaching out further, opening up. Recently Ty Dolla Sign in Copenhagen asked Krept and Konan to support him here for a show. There seems to be more of a reach from the US side towards it. 

Obviously it’s changed a lot as a sound since we started. Due to natural evolution, progression and skill set, you know what I mean. If you listen to an old hiphop beat compared to Drake it’s gonna be different. It doesn’t mean he’s any less hip hop. I feel now that for a long time we borrowed off them, they borrowed off us but never really acknowledged it. They didn’t really say it and now we borrow off each other and they’re ok to say it now. Maybe they’re more aware or we are making more noise now. I feel it’s ok. This music that we created and a lot of english genres like drum and bass and grime, dubstep… we borrowed from dancehall, dance  music and garage… and hip hop is one of those.  It takes inspirations from all over the gaff. Hip Hop does too and they are acknowledging it now. The songs that Rihanna has done… I hear a grime influence in that, Drake and yeah a lot of the trap. ‘Man Don’t Care’ that’s got a little trap influence now. The lines are getting blurred and what people are calling grime now would never have been called Grime, but they call Section Boys grime artists… but before that would have been one or the other, your hip hop or your grime. 

What are you listening to these days and whats next on the tour ?

I’m listening to Kendrick, Giggs, Ghetts, his new tunes ‘One Take’, ‘Dun No Already’..some big tunes, a lot of english stuff but I listen to dancehall mostly. Popcaan is probably who I listen to most out of everyone. We heading for Belgium, Hamburg, Berlin and Amsterdam and then we got some UK stuff and all the festivals during the summer.