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Kano
Made In The Manor Josh Gray , March 7th, 2016 09:47

As Made In The Manor reveals, Kano is a deft hand at hopping effortlessly back and forward through time at will, before, inevitably, returning to the streets of London. One moment he's pacing the heady dubplate house parties of the late 90s, the next he flips back to his schooldays full of space invaders, wagon wheels and Super Soaker 2000s. Suddenly he's observing his mother's generation enduring racial tension in a monocultural Canning Town before fast-forwarding to 2005 and reliving his leap to the big time.

The time it has taken Kano to follow up his most recent record (2010's Method To The Maadness) is a testament to the wealth of experience he's crammed into Manor. Every bar he spits is incredibly self-aware of its own past, whether the musical debt owed to D Double E's jungle stylings, or the social history of the underprivileged East End where Kano grew up. But, from the guitar assault of 'Hail', to the JME-featuring 'Flow Of The Year', Manor never feels like a retrospective piece on either the life of Kano or the growth of grime, even if the opening track does feature an extensive sample from Tempa T's 2008 banger 'Next Hype' a track which still stands up as one of the greatest pieces of music ever to chronicle a man strangling another man with a kite.

But this seemingly odd pairing of Tempz's CD-smashing with the forward-thinking production of producer Rustie actually fits the major theme that underscores the album's entire lyrical drift: the connection of the past to the present (though it could also be how much he likes spaghetti; which crops up altogether too often on this album). One aspect of this is the cross-generational unity of family. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on the barbecue tableau of 'T Shirt Weather In The Manor', featuring a celebration encompassing all ages where "The olders (are) asking for some Dennis Brown, but then you've got that one elder who wants to be young dancing on the floor to high funk".

Kano's explorations of change and continuity in the relationships that have defined him range from playful recollections of popping bottles and insulting the cast of The Only Way Is Essex with his mates, to unsettlingly familiar recollections of broken friendships ('Strangers') and inevitable personal tragedies ('Deep Blues'). In his recent interview with John Doran, Kano mentions that he finds it super easy to write about stuff he would never talk about. This is especially apparent on the album's rawer moments like 'Lil Sis', where he imagines a montage of the life of his estranged half-sister, ending when they finally meet up at the funeral of the father who abandoned them both. Frequently it feels like Kano is unravelling his emotions with no more knowledge than the listener about what lyrical digressions certain memories will trigger in him.

But the album never becomes overly introspective or self-indulgent. Kano makes sure to dedicate equal reams of urban poetry to defending London's apathetic and impoverished black youth against both the whims of a political class that cares little and understands less or against the looming spectre of irrelevant American culture ('Now everyone's trapping and it sounds like TRAP, TRAP, TRAP, TRAP, TRAP, TRAP' he roars on 'Deep Blues', sounding not unlike Admiral Ackbar sadly sinking into a tarpit). Kano chooses not to explore Manor's themes of continual change through any language of tribalism or politics. By chronicling the twists and turns of his own personal life, his family's lives and general life in the East End, Kano draws attention to the role of the past in influencing every path taken on the road of life. This resultant collage, produced by all this cutting and pasting of personal experience and observational wisdom, is a wonderful snapshot in time of the thoughts behind one of the most unique voices in British rap.

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