1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 115

Made in the Manor, by Kano
Suggested by Alfie Bennett

Yesterday, I reviewed an album sung entirely in Icelandic.

It wasn’t the first album of the project in a foreign tongue. The first album was actually the first album, from the German punk offering Die Toten Hosen. Checking the remaining albums on the masterlist, I’m positive that Kveikur won’t be the last.

Today, I’m listening to Made in the Manor, by Kano. And he’s rapping in a metaphorical foreign language.

As I’ve claimed many times, to general derision, I’ve a soft spot for rap. It’s a constant source of anger and vitriol for anyone who gets off on such a thing. It’s lyrical, poetic, and it can palm-strike your chest with its sheer brutality.

I’m an old fool of the Old School, where the rap seems more straightforward than its modern counterpart. Today’s rap can feel impenetrable, with rapid-fire beats that are congested with ideas and themes, so much so that a layman entering the forest should puck up the machete and pull out the flamethrower. But American rap has a rhythm and resonance of its own, a ubiquitous sound which can help a listener unlick its mysteries through repetition and experience. Culturally, it’s omnipresent, and we can coast by through osmosis, nodding along with a fragmented understanding that’s enough to appreciate the larger brush strokes. And of course, my ears are opening to the tune of three albums every day.

Kano is British Rap, grime at the core, intensely urban, and raw to the touch. As befits a pioneer of grime, Kano’s style is a scattergun of syllables that pepper the walls like a shotgun blast, both frenetic and pinpoint accurate. It’s the language of the streets, or poverty and violence, of a bleeding city and a distracted youth, albeit through the wearied eyes of a successful performer that’s crested thirty and so no longer the firebrand youth to whom the messages are presented.

I’m a 46-year old man, more suburban than urban, more bo than gangster. I haven’t lived this life, walked in these shoes. I’m more boulevard than street, all fat no Gat. When the flow is strong, I’m clinging to the mane for dear life, picking out single words here and there.

It’s like listening to someone in another room speaking Welsh to their friends. They say “Rwy’n cael tacsi I’r neuadd snwcer,” and you think “well, it’s something to do with snooker and a taxi, but that’s all I’ve got.” The songs do mention the odd nugget of English nostalgia, which is cool. It’s still “Brrrap famalam pop pop Rice Krispies,” but it’s nice to glom on to something.

That said, as a sound it’s pretty appealing. It feels energetic, and the understanding that does come through is usually enough to carry us somewhere. I actually appreciate the confusion of the faster tracks, and they have the most lasting effect. My favourite, 3 Wheel-Ups, is a fireball of a song, with a meaning that is largely lost on me apart from the surety that I am not, and never will be, a direct rudeboy. When the songs slow, the comprehension increases but the interest diminishes, and things can get downright cringey. The personal Little Sis, for example, has a well-placed heart but still smacks of East 17.

I think I’ll give Made in the Manor 5/10. It’s refreshing, but it’s patchy, and if I’m blunt, it’s just not a Manor I recognise.

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