Kano KanoMethod To The Maadness
Kano has never stuck to parameters we considered normal for a grime MC. From that first batch of underground figures, he represented the lightest on the scene. He was a pretty face, he didn’t look like he ought to be smoking skunk on a Camden street corner, and his lyrics could be understood better than the slang that the direct competition was crowing; he got on the well-mannered urban bandwagon very early on, with collaborations with Craig David or Damon Albarn for example. This is why if a few years ago someone had told me that grime was going to split in two and one route would corrupt itself with mass-production electronic music, and a ton of MCs were going to cross over with their eyes closed, the first name on my list of candidates would have been Kano. Way, way ahead of Dizzee Rascal, today the lord and master of what the good people of Sudando Graves called “Grime to Ibiza” a few weeks ago (he even appears in videos with Shakira). The latest flagrant example of the “phenomenon” came a few days ago in the hands of Skepta. The song might pass the cut in a moment of alcoholic weakness and / or an exaltation of “bling”. Whatever, but the thing about Jeremy Scott’s torero track suit is that it’s like seeing Susan Boyle wearing lingerie from La Perla: I admire the bravery, but it pains my eyes to see it.
For all of these reasons, it wouldn’t have been strange for Kane Robinson –that’s his real name– to jump on the bandwagon with Dizzee’s pussies and petrodollars, and for his latest work to sound like “Ibiza Mix”, a summer tourist operation for young drunks and radio formula dance music. On the other hand, a definitive turn towards more commercial urban music, the kind he did so well in “London Town” , wouldn’t have been strange either. However, Robinson has put out a strange, changeable, dark, surprising album. The MC has come up with a collection of songs that cross, without looking both ways first, through a ton of dance floor versions, from the rhythmic structures of dubstep of “Spaceship” or “2 Left: Topic to Discussion,” nods to the more indie section like “Upside”, and that wonderful chorus that Michelle Breeze sings in a soul revival rhythm, or “All + All Together”, a collaboration in which Hot Chip gets as dancehall as their particular sound lets them get - which is to say, not very much. In spite of having taken over Kano’s song so that it sounds totally like a Hot Chip song, the piece is one of the album’s outstanding songs. On the other hand, on “Lady Killer” –also produced by the band– they stick to creating music for another and they refrain from stealing the show with their unmistakeable musical seal. Another of the merits of “Method to the Maadness” is how Kano manages to handle himself and change his register depending on the type of rhythm that he’s rhyming over. Robinson has never really had an applause-worthy flow, but he has handled himself well when it comes to varying his style to adapt it to different types of songs with discretion, elegance, and a sense of naturalness.
This album isn’t going to be one of the totems of the year. However, it is nice to come across albums that prove your prejudices wrong, and surpass your expectations in doing so. It’s not easy to get a staff of producers as varied as your own taste is and, at the same time, try to give the album as a whole unity, solidity, and cohesion. It is an elaborate job to get people as disparate as Chase & Status and Craigie Dodds (the one who was about to sink the Sugababes and who recently finished off what was left of All Saints) to work with you. The Londoner’s third album will not cloak him with glory, not at all. But he has shown himself to be above other MC’s in terms of being true to himself and having integrity and principles. Kano isn’t a better artist with “Method to the Maadness”, but he’s honourable, and this can only be good for his music.