3 Wheels-up (feat. Giggs)
3-Wheels Up is available at:
8th January, 2016
NOT often do I focus on a mainstream artist for review…
yet it is hard to ignore the effect Kano is having on the music world. I shall go into more detail- introduce the London Grime star soon- but he (being an actor-turned-musician) gets me thinking about the theme: The rise of Grime and the artists out there; the necessity for something edgier and more direct in music. When you think about actors who have turned to music- as a second career- you often shudder and look at some of the more disastrous attempts- Robson and Jerome for instance. Ben Drew (A.K.A. Plan B) has managed to transition/balance music and acting: He is also a talented director who has a bright future in filmmaking. Whilst there have been some notably laughable attempts- for actors to become musicians- there have been a few that have managed to pull off the feat. From U.S. actors Jamie Foxx and Juliette Lewis; across to Zooey Deschanel and Jenny Lewis: There have been some laudable creations from the aforementioned list. In this country, there are fewer actors turning their hand to music. Whether it is a nervousness- given the ropey and tragic attempts of the past- or the need to concentrate on one profession: I would like to hear more actors bridging into the music world. Actors possess a discipline and sense of performance that (should in theory) transition into music. If you have a good team behind you- writers and producers- then it can lead to something exceptional and memorable. Let’s hope this year sees more of our brightest and best actors turn their hand to music. From the likes of Gemma Arterton- who has impressed in plays like Made in Dagenham– to Idris Elba: It will be interesting to see who comes through. This is a subject I shall expand-upon in future reviews. For now- and with Kano rising through the ranks- I am reminded of the best Grime/Hip-Hop artists this country has produced. I am a massive fan of Dizzee Rascal and The Streets: The two finest- and most distinct- Grime/Hip-Hop acts this nation has produced in the last 15 years. Whilst artists like Wiley, Stomrzy and Skepta have made big impressions on the scene: It is Dizzee who remains in my consciousness. Ever since his debut album- Boy in da Corner arrived in 2003- exploded onto the scene: Dizzee Rascal has been the leading light in Grime/Hip-Hop crossover. The confidence and slickness; the ambition and maturity that came from that album- from someone who was a teenager at the time- was staggering. Following that up with the equally-impressive Showtime: A musician that seemed unstoppable and peerless. The intelligence and wit of the lyrics was only equaled by the sheer confidence of the vocals. Backed by electrifying and varied compositions: Dizzee Rascal transformed the Grime scene in 2003. Over the last few years the Bow resident has been a little quiet. In a recent interview (Dizzee) explained how little inspiration he has right now. Unwilling to get into the studio and record the same old thing: He is seeking fresh inspiration and relevance.
His most-recent album (The Fifth) was received with tepidness and unenthusiastic reception. The problem with the album- and his work running up to that- was the thematic shifts. When Boy in da Corner dropped: It was the story of a young man trying to get out of the estates. Dizzee was documenting the reality of street life and the everyday dangers faced. Promiscuous characters (perfectly laid out in Jezebel) and gang conflicts resonated with young audiences and showed how real and raw (Dizzee is). Following on from his debut success: Subsequent records become less sincere and accessible. As Dizzee grew richer and more recognisable: He could not write the same songs as seen on Boy in da Corner. Subsequently, the braggadocio-cum-boastful nature of the music put off a lot of listeners. It is debatable whether Dizzee will return anytime soon: The Streets have certainly had their day. Mike Skinner arrived with force when Original Pirate Material arrived in 2002. Unlike Dizzee; Skinner was a more conversational M.C.: Someone who focused on similar day-to-day woes but with a more relaxed delivery. Like Dizzee Rascal; Skinner’s growing fame saw his music become less appealing and majestic. From the dust of The Streets and Dizzee Rascal acts like Skepta and Giggs have been making a charge for glory. While Skepta has a sharp sense of humour and clear wit: He is not as memorable and distinctive as Dizzee Rascal. Giggs has fared better and with distinct authority to him- having a prison record and growing up in Peckham- the music carries much more weight and conviction. Hooking up with Kano: 3 Wheels-up is the sound of two of our finest Grime artists bonding their talents. I have been impressed by Kano for a while now. In 2005, his album, Home Sweet Home took critics by surprised and showed real promise. Perhaps not his finest work- too much thrown into the mix- that need to create a stunning crossover album was slightly lacking. Subsequent albums like London Town (2007) and Method to the Maadness (sic.) didn’t quite show the potential Kano displayed. With Made in the Manor released: Kano has started to open more to the audience and find that crossover golden spot. Collaborating with the likes of Damon Albarn (Deep Blues) and Wiley (3 Wheels-up) has not diluted the focus and attack. The thirteen-track album is the best album Kano has produced since his debut: A strong statement that will see him regain attention and cement his place as one of Hip-Hop’s biggest names. The U.K. Hip-Hop/Grime scene has variable quality: Too many chancers thinking they have what it takes. With Kano- unlike so many wannabe M.C.s- you get that realness and focus. Among the sharp beats and tight delivery the compositions and vocals display nuance and room to breathe. Things are not too claustrophobic and suffocated: As a result, the album has layers and plenty of room to breathe. 3 Wheels-up is the highlight off an album that brims with life, adventure; wisdom, wit and innovation. Kano name-drops Wagon Wheels, T.O.W.I.E. and fish and chips with enormous charm and impression. Oozing panache, drive and maturity- Kano is now in his 30s- you have an album that puts British Grime back into focus.
Made in the Manor has been hailed as a breakthrough from Kano. Perhaps Home Sweet Home resonated because it was released around a time when The Streets and Dizzee Rascal were ruling. That inspiration and excitement propelled a fairly unknown M.C. to prominence: Critics noted the instancy of tracks and the rule-breaking nature of the album. Maybe that initial explosion whimpered on subsequent releases, but the fact remains: Kano is definitely back to his very best. Maybe not quite as accomplished and original as Home Sweet Home: Made in the Manor is a natural companion to the debut gem. If you are a new listener- and not familiar with Kano- I would suggest you investigate his debut album first before arriving at his latest album. For transparency and a full impression it is worth listening to his subsequent albums- or a selection of tracks- to see how the Londoner has progressed and evolved. What you notice now- on his new album- is the kinks have been ironed out and weaknesses eradicated. Some critics were unimpressed by Kano’s songs of sexual lust and strippers: Seedy underworld and obnoxious brags. It is the sort of thing you get from U.S. Hip-Hop artists: It seems rather gaudy and untraditional when coming out the mouth of a British rapper. That grit and dirt has not been washed out entirely: Made in the Manor still drags its feet to some darkened corners once in a while. Happily, there is a lot more focus and street-level testament this time around. Kano still plays the bad boy- and can brag with conviction- but has rediscovered his humour, humanity and heritage on Made in the Manor. In terms of compositions, everything is a lot tighter and more concise (than previous attempts). Instruments and genres are not slung together for the sake of things: Everything has its place and sounds natural. In that respect, Kano’s choice of cohorts- in terms of producers and collaborators- is a lot smarter and considered. There are not mainstream-pleasing decisions- Dizzee Rascal fell prey to that when Maths + English arrived- and Kano brings the best minds into the album. From Wiley and Giggs- exceptional throughout 3 Wheels-up– to Damon Albarn: Here’s a musician that has a lot of respect and support. This leads to a confident and assured album that shows Kano has few Hip-Hop peers.
Kano begins with bracing and jubilant horns. The edgy and atmospheric opener gets the song underway with conviction and injects energy and abrasion into 3 Wheels-up. The brass blast summons edginess and swagger into a song that has nothing but confidence and urgency at its beating heart. Within the early seconds, you are captivated by the flair and sass of the introduction. It makes the head nod and arms move in an arrhythmic sway: You feel helpless to resist the sly charm and neon-lit drive-by. Those doubting Kano’s rude boy credentials are given a needed poke in the opening lines. With 3 wheels-up, our hero is the definite article. You envisage the M.C. riding through Peckham- or borough of south-east London. The night is beckoning and our boy is rallying his crew and cursing the streets with little intention. “That means I’m a direct rudeboy”- “2 2 yats of my own”- our hero lets it be known. Maybe a retaliation to critics and peers- those who doubted his staying power and status- or just a brag in itself. Whatever the inspiration, you cannot deny how alert and authoritative Kano sounds. Our hero strikes against fake rudeboys and those claiming to be the real deal. If you carry a “side bag” and “stoney”: That does not make you a “direct rudeboy”. By the time the next verse comes into the mix: Kano has laid down his thoughts and spits against the boys and fakers. The horns keep blaring and riding a hypnotic crescendo wave. “Pu*** and rum” are on the rider of real M.C.s. Although Wiley and Kano have had a dust-up in the past: The fact it happened- and they are brothers again- means Kano’s M.C. status should not be undermined. The violence, chaos and reality of the street: Our man bares it all and comes through it strong. On estates where “Man don’t care ‘bout fathers” and “Man just care if it’s blinging” Kano lays his claim. I am unsure whether that observation- the no-goods that have no feelings- are being slapped down or casually represented. It is clear (Kano) has heart and knows the realities of modern life.
There are a lot of wannabe M.C.s that think they are the real deal: Unless you have lived the life and are genuine then you are wasting your time. Before the chorus rides back in: Kano ensures his rhymes are spat with intensity and intention. One of his most urgent and direct statements since his debut: 3 Wheels-up sees our boy in rapid-fire form with a lot to get off his chest. Clearly, he is angered and feels aggrieved by a wave- either musicians or local kids- who think they have what it takes. The ferocity, excitement and energy never relent throughout the song. Whether Kano is in the midst of another verse- or the composition rules with a swaggering little nod- there is no escaping the braggadocio and confidence on display. Kano keeps things at boiling point- “In the jungle I move with original nuttahs (sic.)”- and is deposing fraudsters and fly-by-night kings. Giggs is keen to jump into the mix and arrives with an equally assured performance. Not quite as jagged and fast as Kano- there is a soulfulness and deep-voiced husk to his vocals- the lyrics are no let-down for sure. Whilst Giggs is a “gangster and a gentleman”. Money demands, rollin’ with the boys and gunshot drama are suggested but it is the music that is in the forefront. Giggs looks at “those chimps” and laughs at their words. Whilst there is that blend of musical confidence- the strength of the flow and authority of the beats- there always lingers imminent danger and conflict. Giggs delivers his part with utmost authority and resonance. Having collaborated with a number of Grime and Hip-Hop acts: He sounds completely comfortable and natural alongside Kano. Whilst Giggs is in “the matte black 350”; Kano will take “this pen to your neck”. East and south London and changing and evolving: There are some features that remain the same. While areas are becoming gentrified there are still kids that “push prams to Westfield” and “runs from pigs”. Within the dizzying lyrical assault, you start to picture the scenes unfold: The chaos seems very tangible and real. The composition remains fairly simple and straight- as not to distill the vocals- but adds to the intensity and vibrancy.
The entire song sounds compulsive, essential and commanding from start to finish. Kano has experience some unsure moments in past albums. Perhaps losing focus or trying to stretch his sound too far: Here there is a more direct, stripped-back and focused track. Whilst the composition offers plenty of drama and nuance, it is the vocals that remain in the memory for days. Kano has not sounded as dominant and imperious since his debut album dropped. It sounds like he has not dropped a step and has that youthful energy and ambition that has been sadly lacking. Those fearing 3 Wheels-up would be a commercial sell-out- a watered-down attempt at Hip-Hop- will be in for a pleasant shock. It is very much business as usual and a middle-finger-up to those who have written him off. 3 Wheels-up delivers its tide of anger with a surprising amount of control and maturity. Whilst the lyrics draw you into the slam of the streets- the kids evading the law and posers being shot down- each listener will come away with something different. Other tracks on Made in Manor are a little more radio-friendly, yet 3 Wheels-up has that underground grit that means it will struggle to find too much mainstream air time. That said: I can see the song being featured on Radio 1– if it hasn’t already- and will surely inspire new M.C.s looking for guidance and a hero.
3 Wheels-up is another stunning song from a musician who is regaining fine form. With such an impressive debut arriving in 2005: Kano has been looking for that spark and sense of identity. Previous albums- prior to the recent release of Made in the Manor– have lacked the killer blow and dignity required. London Town arrived two years after his debut. Gone were the immediate smashes like P’s & Q’s: In its place were tales of strippers and booze; the fun was gone and the sense of decency- N.M.E. noted the puerile nature of some songs- was eradicated. 140 Grime St was Kano’s third album and showed little improvement following a sophomore slump. 2010’s Method in the Maadness stopped the rot truly setting in: The album saw the young M.C. keeping his soul guarded and pushing the audience away somewhat. The Grime all-rounded regained foothold on Method’. Gone were the crowd-pleasing collaboration and in its place was more logical partnerships- Boyz Noise and Hot Chip added to the album’s flair and excitement. The East Ham M.C. was at his angry best, here. Playing a certain villainous role- a bit of a Captain Hook figure to critics- Kano assessed gang violence and bus-hogging hooligans; rude boys with too much ‘tude: A cornucopia of misfits and knife-wielding thugs united into an exceptional album. Often derided for being too experimental- just for the sake of being diverse- it was a gamble that was tempered slightly on his fourth album. Whereas Dizzee Rascal’s debut nailed experimental and focused- compositions and melodies ranged from music hall sing-along to jagged vitriol- Kano seemed less authoritative and assured. It was a long time since his debut: Method to the Maadness put critics on an even plateau and showed that original genius. I was excited to review Kano because Made in the Manor is being talked about in fevered tones. Fans and reviewers are noting that Kano is back to his best and penning tunes that are instant, memorable and focused. The anger and scorn is still to be found. Social consciousness and wit remains in an album unafraid to experiment and take chances- the chances taken come off for the most part. Frequent collaborators like Damon Albarn are back on board: Clear signs that show what faith people have in Kano. Tracks like Deep Blue have smolder and seduction: An introspective song that sees the author chiding himself for his extravagant ways. New Banger is as apt and instantaneous as its title suggests: A track that could easily have found its way onto debut. Whereas previous Kano albums have seen instruments slung together with little regard- a lot of songs sound crowded and lackluster- here there is a lot more attention to detail. My Sound brings horns and grumbling bass into one of album’s highlights. The flow and purpose are back: Kano is reestablishing himself as one of Hip-Hop’s leading lights. Kano was one of the earliest proponents of Grime: The fact he has survived and continues to work demonstrates that passion and dedication for his art. Before clocking things off, it is worth recalling those early themes of Grime and actors-turned-musicians. Having appeared in Top Boy (between 2011-2013), Point Blank and Tower Block: The young M.C. has deftly managed to mix acting and music. Focusing more on the latter these days: I am sure the acting world has not seen the last of Kano. Acting requires dogged determination, discipline and determination: Characteristics needed to succeed and pervade in the music industry. I am certain there is a correlation between acting and music: A winking bond that makes the transition seamless and natural. Of course, a lot of actors have not hit their stride and been consigned to the bargain bins of history. If you get it right- as East Ham’s finest has- the results speak for themselves. Lesser musicians- who did not have the patience an actor displays- might have called it quits after a few bad reviews. If Kano has abandoned music following London Town– some critics hoped he would- we would not have him here today.
I opened by looking at Dizzee Rascal and The Streets: Two acts who were torpedoed by their eventual fame and loss of identity. Both made huge debut statements because they were struggling artists who assessed the reality of the streets and communities they lived in. When the money and airplay arrived; they were less convincing and appealing. The inspiration waned and the quality started to deteriorate. I guess Grime can be a short-lived venture. It requires a certain struggle and hard upbringing. If you keep your messages on point- make sure you are focused and attention-grabbing- you can get the ears of critics. The wrinkle arrives when money and airplay starts streaming in. How genuine can you be- rapping about scraping around for money- when you are being invited to award ceremonies? Kano has always managed to keep his feet on the floor and- despite his latest album being celebrated- still hovers under-the-radar for many. British Hip-Hop/Grime will never truly capture the mainstream imagination- dominated by Pop and Indie acts- so I feel he has many albums left. His passion and flair have certainly not exhausted themselves. Made in the Manor is ripe and over-furnished with memorable lyrics and repeatable moments. Not all the songs work out- there are still problems with economy and concision- but for the most part, the album is a return to form. It looks like the young M.C. has regained his Grime crown and is in no mood to surrender it without a fight. 3 Wheels-up is an arresting and intense track where Giggs adds his talents into the mix. A song that demands a lot of spins- some lyrics and ideas may race by upon first listen- it is refreshing seeing a British talent getting better and more authoritative with each passing years. Too many musicians are suffocated by the brevity and capriciousness of the industry. Pop stars arrive and Pop stars dissolve. New bands come along with brighter smiles only to fade away after the first album. Music fans want to find artists that are capable of longevity and profitable returns. Kano’s fan-base have been loyal since his 2005 arrival. Over a decade on, the fan numbers are expanding and new listeners are discovering something exceptional. I just know the future is going to be bright for the 30-year-old M.C. With critics back on his side and early form being rediscovered: Here is a confident young man…
EVERYONE needs to obey.