“This the motherfucking thanks I get from this scene?/Ten years deep, a thousand 16s”
IS any rapper ever satisfied their position in hip hop has been properly recognised and respected? Striving for acceptance, and resentment at any perceived lack of acknowledgment, still fuels so many MCs.
Kano is already recognised as one of the central figures in the emergence of the UK grime scene but that yearning for props is still evident.
2016 has however delivered a Mercury Music Prize nomination for Kano’s fifth LP, Made in the Manor, and a nationwide tour which brought him to Cardiff – and left the 31-year-old veteran in no doubt as to the esteem he is held in the capital.
As the show runs along loud applause and appreciation punctuates every song, with Kano and his live band seemingly leaving sufficient space for the crowd to fill. Eventually the cheering gives way for chants of ‘Kano, Kanoo’.
“I feel like Gareth Bale,” responds the East Londoner to the 1,000 capacity Sunday night crowd – just hours earlier, around a mile away from the Grangetown venue, the Welsh talisman had scored his 25th goal for his country.
The sold out signs, that had gone up earlier in the week, and the 25 minute queue to enter the Tramshed indicated the anticipation that surrounded the live appearance from the MC whose career has progressed from pirate radio, garage raves and support slots to critically acclaimed albums – with a sideline as a well received actor.
Kano stepped to the stage to the rock like strains of Hail – the opening track from Made in the Manor – and announced “Welcome to the jungle…the royal rumble.” That set the pace and tone, with New Banger, quickly following. Kano’s rock band was soon joined by his mobile horns section. One carrying a trombone and the other a sousaphone – if you don’t know, a giant horn that wraps around the player’s upper body.
Kano, in a black cap and hoddie, shadowed on stage by a giant brass instrument could almost look comical – but this was no joke thing as the occasional appearances added bass and real power to the set.The horns soon showed their value, adding a classic soul quality to T-Shirt Weather in the Manor, which appeared a strange early change of tempo compared to the noisier opening numbers, and powering This is England as a rolling anthem.
A Roadman’s Hymn drew the crowd into its plea for forgiveness, revealing Kano’s ability to capture feeling and empathy in his songwriting. It’s a craft that explains the longevity of his songs as well. His hour and twenty minutes on stage also featured 2005/06 hits Typically Me, and Ps and Qs as well a couple of verses from his top 30 hit with The Streets, Nite, Nite.
Kano acknowledged the “love for the old school” and was joined by his brass section for an extra lively rendition of his 2002 single Boys Love Girls.
Songs from the Manor however formed the backbone of the show and on My Sound, Kano and the brass section showed why “we shut down dance wherever we go” and how the East End storyteller has gone from holding the mic to commanding a live show.
At the end of the set there was a quick shout for keyboard player and producer Blue May, playing his hometown, but as Kano acknowledged, “this isn’t my manor, but Cardiff you’ve made me feel at home”.
Hitting the road seems to have helped Kano understand his place in hip hop and appreciation for his contribution to grime’s time.