One of the founding fathers of grime came to Nottingham for a performance indicative of his lasting cultural influence.
Kane Robinson, stage name Kano, has used his 16-year career to consolidate his position of authority within grime both as a genre of music and as a culture – one of yearning and expression, of escaping the gutter. Kano’s newest album, Hoodies All Summer, is telling of such authority, as was the electric reception of his presence at Rock City last Thursday. Contrary to much of his earlier work, the new album takes a tender approach to the intricacies and realities of a life on the road. Both the album and his performance at Rock City are telling of Kano’s ability to capture not only the gun fingers and euphoric violence of grime, but the melancholy and tragedy of such a culture too. The antithetical combination of such immersion and objective reflection was observed in a crowd that moved seamlessly from screw faced mosh pits to truly unified and sensitive listening.
Something which was hauntingly consistent in Kano’s performance was an acknowledgement of a national divide; a divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’, a message which was particularly prominent in Trouble and Can’t Hold We Down, from the chorus to the sampled ad libs. Kano’s newest album often calls for unification in class, race and cultural preference, and such a desire has also been evident in the rest of his UK tour. His performance at Royal Albert Hall is perhaps demonstrative of an attempt to expose more bourgeoise areas of society to the working-class culture which grime represents. This is particularly important in considering who affects social change, the ‘top’ of society or the ‘bottom’. The Rock City performance invited an extremely disparate crowd in terms of age, colour and culture to dance together, to sweat together, to stand against the oppression of marginalised social groups together. Kano has described his music as a ‘direct conversation with the people of the community that [he’s] from’, and it seems that the frontiers of that ‘community’ are continually expanding.
'The Rock City performance invited an extremely disparate crowd in terms of age, colour and culture to dance together, to sweat together, to stand against the oppression of marginalised social groups together'.
In conforming to the conventions established by many other grime performances, Kano’s observations on the general division of post-Brexit England were granted a more specific colour by ideas surrounding race. He and his team were blacked out to the socks (perhaps in a meta-grime reference to Skepta’s sample on Shutdown in 2015) and adopted an almost gospel theatricality in their heartfelt acoustic performances of songs like Got my Brandy, Got my Beats and SYM. It might be said that such playfulness with traditional perceptions of aggression is an attempt to subvert stereotypes surrounding the appearance of the grime genre, to ask the audience to focus on what is being said and to let who says it fade into the stage simply as a figure in black; equally, it could be a warning to be more cautious in trusting the traditional ideals of intelligence and authority: *cough* suits *cough* politicians *cough*.
From the explosive reaction to Kano classics such as P’s and Q’s, to the sincere and profound reflection upon perhaps the most culturally applicable lyrics in contemporary grime found on Hoodies All Summer, Kano’s performance at Rock City provided its audience with a charming mixture of sweat, dirt, and integration. It has never been more evident that Kano is a true Master of Ceremonies.