After the huge critical praise and deserved Mercury Prize nomination for his 2016 album Made In The Manor, Kano returned in 2019 with his latest project, entitled Hoodies All Summer. On his latest album, Kano strips back some of the bombastic sounds found on Made In The Manor and uses a wide variety of instrumental sound that accompany his seemingly more sombre, yet always articulate and thoughtful lyrics.
Kano has always experimented with different sounds to exhibit his craftsmanship and mastery of his art, and Hoodies All Summer allows him to get into some meaty political and cultural observations whilst retaining that same swagger and flair that makes him one of the most heralded figures in grime. Arguably the standout track is ‘Trouble’, where the initial voiceover discusses the various forms of oppression and violence facing black people in this country and a bloodcurdling shriek is also heard mid-song that accompanies a woman describing a stabbing she’s just witnessed. These elements combine seamlessly with Kano highlighting the ignorance of the elite and discussing the current knife crime epidemic in London, though all of this is backed by a positive, triumphant beat which Kano uses inspirationally to reflect positively on things in his life that have changed since he took up music, holding out hope that the community he hails from can follow suit.
Opening track ‘Free Years Later’ and closing track ‘SYM’ are two other powerful and resonating songs that allow Kano to be introspective as well as enable him to invoke wider critiques of society and the ruling class as well as the price of fame and issues that have affected him and those around personally. What’s best about Kano is his ability to switch gears on his albums so effortlessly, able to flit between weighty themes and having fun, whilst always sounding like he loves every track he’s rapping on. Particularly songs like ‘Pan-Fried’, featuring a catchy hook by Kojo Funds, where Kano raps about his culture and how his earned success has improved his life and the lives of those he cares about most is relentlessly fun, backed by a steel-pan beat that just oozes cool.
There’s also a phenomenal collaboration on the album with fellow grime artists Ghetts and D Double E, entitled ‘Class of Deja’, where it is Kano really going back to his grime roots to create a song with a classic feel to it. In the second verse, he and Ghetts spit back to back, alternating between lines and it is two of grime’s greatest going bar for bar in a really clever and creatively constructed way, all backed by D Double E’s unique and iconic voice during the chorus.
It was hard to fathom that Kano could create something nearly as good as Made In The Manor, but with Hoodies All Summer he has arguably done so. A short but sweet, addictive album that takes the listener on a masterfully produced, lyrically superb and thematically rich journey by one of the true great grime artists.
Words by Elliott Jones