First things first; this definitively ain’t the sound of London.
James Young 2007
Only 22 and already he’s put behind him promising careers as footballer, Hugo Boss model, and, yes, grime emcee. The first album shifted over 100,000, got props from all the critics, respect from enough stars to spangle a banner and now he’s enlisted up a list of seriously marketalicious talent for album two. Of course there is going to be a backlash. It’s only fair, right?
First things first; this definitively ain’t the sound of London. With this release Kano may be paying lip service to his roots, but the style and aspirations are international, and in hip hop currency that means America. The darkness of title track “London Town” sounds more Hollywood slick than grimy and with its DJ Shadow style outro is but one example of the serious production muscle present.
Undeniably his smooth delivery is as enjoyable to listen to as any of his stateside peers. His caramel voice is displayed all but butt naked not once but twice, acapella at the end of the fine and edgy opener “The Product” and with just an acoustic guitar to assist in the Junior Murvin cover “Fightin’ The Nation”. It is a weird centrepiece though. You can’t see it striding his old stomping grounds, but it does betray the eclectic genre-defying nature of the album.
Of the collaborations “Me And My Microphone” is surprisingly good as over skittering jazz drum breaks he plays Brit JayZ to Kate Nash’s cockney Beyonce. Chart buster “This Is The Girl” featuring Craig David is such a dough-seeking missile that they felt the need to hire a ‘strings contractor’. David’s other, edgier contribution is the sole redeeming feature on the sleazy let’s-hope-he’s-being ironic “Bad Boy”.
Whether the gamble to exchange his streets credit for hard cash and the renewed respect you get for being a chart-topping hip hop titan is hard to tell. Maybe not this time round, but that’s probably just jealousy talking, he is a handsome devil after all, and he’s paid his dues – time to collect.