As the landscape of Grime expands and reaches a bigger audience, it must be bittersweet for the people who’ve been making this music for many years. Kano has rightfully earned himself the spot of being one of Grime’s most recognisable voices without ever really blowing up like a lot of his peers did. He’s always had a distinct style, and a recognisable flow, yet never the commercial appeal.
Made In The Manor sees the Grime veteran returning to his roots after branching out on previous solo albums as many people did in their attempts to break into the mainstream. He takes it back to the style that made him big in the first place, with an appreciation of British music, yet with an added maturity of someone who’s no longer a young angry man.
This isn’t to say that Kano isn’t full of aggression in the way he spits, New Banger contains killer bars showcasing a man who’s perfected his delivery, and although the opening track Hail has an electronic guitar driven instrumental that we could do without, his passion behind the microphone is undeniable. He also holds his own when paired with artists that have gone on to be bigger names than himself in Grime such as Giggs and the Godfather of Grime, Wiley on the brilliant 3 Wheels Up, as well as the BBK mastermind JME on Flow Of The Year. With a wide range of producers on this album including the fantastic Rustie, as well as a guest appearance from Damon Albarn, the album jumps around stylistically yet stays true in that it sounds distinctively like a Grime album, even when playing with different textures.
The best parts of this album come from the moments where Kano is embracing some of the inner demons he’s faced when coming to terms with growing up. This is especially true when the instrumentals become more minimalistic and not so cacophonous like some of the most heavy-handed songs on the album are like the aforementioned opener. The second half of the album is filled with sparse instrumentals like on the sombre Lil Sis where Kano lets his flow relax, tones his bravado down and talks far more personally than we have heard from him in the past.
We also see him observing the world around him in a lot more of grown up way on tracks like This Is England, where he speaks with a tone of reflection in the decisions he’s made when he was young, knowing that despite the times changing within the country he grew up in, people are still making those same mistakes. On Drinking In The West End he reflects in a way that comes with maturing in realising the reasons he enjoys drinking on a night out is mostly for building bonds with friends and the memories that follow, despite the headaches in the mornings.
There are misses scattered throughout the tracklist as well though, T-Shirt Weather In The Manor is a song that sees Kano once again reaching for that maturity but due to awkward singing, some flimsy production and an overtly positive outlook on life that’s a bit hard to swallow in delivery, the song is a write off. Not only that but in a lot of the stronger moments on the album there are lyrics that you have to turn a blind eye to for being too openly relatable in his quips with little substance, such as PG Tips and TOWIE references making an appearance in otherwise well-formed songs. Kano falls into the trap that many of the biggest names in Grime do today, in that their punchlines are often nowhere near as witty as they think they are.
Despite its flaws and the lack of anything all out awe-inspiring for the new age of Grime. Kano is someone that’s actually put out an album that sounds like an album for the new movement, rather than the singles that have dominated the radio from the likes of Stormzy, Skepta and Lethal Bizzle’s recent output. Not only that but along with the other big player who’s released an album, JME, he’s stayed true to his roots and embraced the fact that he doesn’t need to put up any facade to keep his respect. Made In The Manor is a grown up, very much welcomed return for Kano and a much-needed mature album in the new age of Grime.