In a grainy home video from 2004 that was later distributed from car boots around East London as the first “Lord of the Mics” DVD, we see a baby faced Kano alongside an equally youthful-looking Wiley battle it out on a stairwell, spitting their lyrics with fierce determination to a soundtrack of scuzzy beats that sounds like 2-step played through a broken sub. And thus, Grime was born.
Like Adam and Eve in Genesis, these two figures (along with the Dizzee Rascal who can play the role of a snake trying to tempt with an apple of top 40 success), Kano and Wiley shaped the landscape of British music for the following decade. Yet, they both took very different routes; Wiley, stuck to his mixtapes, heavy beats, notierty for not showing up to gigs and promoting the scenes newcomer, while Kano on the other hand, took the commercial route; dropping an album of hits every few years and taking a leading role in Channel 4’s urban drama Top Boy. However, that isn’t to say he took the easy route – from the beginning he has been the most commercial of all the Grime boys; beats came pop ready, never too offensive, never too pious – it was accessible and varied with something for everyone, but always of quality.
And it’s this that gave Kano his power to propel. He clearly has business savvy and is able to diversify his portfolio in the name of success, without ever waning on his style, or bending to try and crack new audiences. For example, his features range from Grime alliances, to the likes of Brit Pop pioneer and Blur frontman Damon Albarn.
The other key to his success is his likability. He has an infectious smile, that can heard beaming through over his lyrics, that are peppered with woops and yelps that can’t help but make the listener share with his excitement. And this shone through at his recent concert in Brixton, elevating the audience to a share in his sense of achievement at selling the 5,000 capacity venue out for the first time. Delighting the crowds, he came along with a fun backing band rather than a Dj spinning instrumentals – this was Grime live.
As part of his Made In The Manor tour, in celebration of his fourth studio album of the same name, which is by far his most successful to date, Kano came out the sound of a toll bell ringing and declared “Grimes not popping like it was back then”. But it definitely was. Starting with the first song on the album; “Hail”, and ending with the finale track “Garage Skank”, gave the atmosphere of a start to finish rendition, but with a host of surprises in the middle. A few nostalgia classics, a brass band, live percussionists and a guest appearance from JME kept the crowd on their feet and their gun fingers in the air for a full hour and a half.
The highlight of the show however, was Kano’s infectious excitement. Impossible not to share in his delight at conquering his childhood dream meant that every single person in the venue was elated. It will be hard to beat, but we are full of anticipation to see what could come next.