'Welcome to the jungle, King of this shit, royal blood, welcome to the rumble' - raps Kano on 'Hail', the opening track of his fifth studio album 'Made in the Manor'. It's been 11 years since Kano's (real name Kane Robinson) barnstorming debut album 'Home Sweet Home' was released and broke the top 40, propelling him to stardom and his 2016 release is a nostalgic and intimate look at the times which made him what he is today.
Grime over the last year or so has been on a meteoric rise. A culture that stemmed for the predominately black, working class housing estates of London has been propelled onto a world stage and has crossed the waters to infiltrate the mainstream in a mesmeric and unprecedented way. At the forefront of it all has been Skepta, the leader of the grime collective Boy Better Know who alongside of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, brought out his long awaited album, 'Konnichiwa' this year. Both Kano and Skepta are in the running for this years Mercury Prize, reflective of grimes new found recognition but for me Made in the Manor is the clear winner.
The depth and complexity of Made in the Manor is vast, from exploring lost friendships, fallout's and summer evenings in the East End, Kano is able to grab us on the arm and take us on a stroll down memory lane. The vivid use imagery and emotive language within the lyrics means that you can sense the environments Kano is talking about, you can see the barbers on a Friday night and smell the cookouts on a summers evening, He also names specific people and places like '69 Manor Road', 'Smithy' , 'Jenifer' and 'Aaron' as if in conversation about them, giving the album a personal and empathetic edge. Kano's lyrics and subject matter mean that Made in the Manor is more than just an album, it's also a story.
This nostalgia and intimacy is what gives the album its edge over its rivals for me. On songs such as 'Little Sis' and 'Drinking in the West End' Kano explores issues that having seemingly been bothering him for years and airs them out on the microphone in a calm and illustrative manner. However, he doesn't shy away from the trademark machine gun flow of yesteryear and tracks like '3 Wheel-ups' (my favourite grime record of the year) as well as bonus songs 'Flow Of The Year' and 'Garage Skank' remind us of why Kano is arguably the best MC of all time.The production throughout is smooth, with songs such as 'My Sound' seeing Kano go in over a Jamie XX style beat and his switching between spoken word and his trademark harsh and aggressive flow show the flexibility of Kano as an artist.
The Mercury Prize winner will be announced in a months time on September the 15th and I'm hoping we'll see it in the clutches of a grime stalwart either way. However, over the last year Skepta has had plenty of recognition and publicity for what he is doing for the scene so it would be nice to see the limelight on someone else, even if it's just for one night. But, if we're talking about whose album is better, then my vote goes to Kano - and it has.