Made in the Manor by Kano

When it comes to UK rap music, few are revered in quite the same way as Kano is. Present in the Grime scene from the early days, he has had five studio albums to date. Made in the Manor is his latest and stands up, hands down, as one of the best rap albums I’ve heard.

This is definitely an album that has grown on me over time. The opening songs grabbed me instantly but the later, more introspective, songs took a bit longer to get their hooks in me. But now that they have, they get better and better with every listen.

Welcome to the jungle

The opening of ‘Hail’ – the album’s first song – is sharp, loud and aggressive. This whole song is unrelenting throughout and Kano’s delivery is right up in your face forcing you to stand up and listen. The chainsaw melody that carries us along is later joined by the best sample i’ve heard for a long time. The sample is of Tempz, from his track ‘Next Hype’:

(CLEAR!) All of your CD rack
Won’t get none of your CD’s back
— Next Hype, Tempz.

Some manner of respite comes with the next song, ‘T-shirt Weather in the Manor’, which brings with it a calm piano melody and light drumming. Kano’s vocals are no less commanding on this song with the lighter accompaniment.

‘New Banger’ and ‘Three Wheel Ups’ bring that in-your-face energy back in spades with some great featured rappers. Giggs and Wiley both feature on ‘Three Wheel Ups’ and do an excellent job of supporting Kano. Even D Double E can be heard in parts doing his signature “ooooh”.

Kano and Giggs in the Three Wheel Ups video
Kano and Giggs in the Three Wheel Ups video

‘This is England’ was the song that made me first sit up and take a closer look at this album. The various layers and production on this song made me realise that this album was something special. Like Charlie Sloth said in Kano’s 1 extra, this feels like a seminal record.

All in the family

There were two songs that stood out to me for just how personal and confessional they sounded. ‘Little Sis’ and ‘Strangers’ feel like personal monologues directed to a sister and brother respectively. Although these songs initially didn’t grab me as his big tunes did, I have since come to enjoy them both in a whole different way.

Kano
Kano – full name Kane Robinson

When I first got into Kano all I wanted to hear were his big tunes – they are so addictive. But now that I’m in the habit of listening to Made In The Manor front to back, these more personal songs fit perfectly with the overall flow.

From the family you’re born with to the one you choose : all of the guest features on this album feel like they are done from a place of love. What I mean is, I imagine many rappers feature on other artists’ tracks for the chance of exposure. I could be wrong about that but it does make sense. On Made in the Manor, however, each feature feels like it is Kano and his close friends, who are just making great music together.

Summary

Whether you think you are a fan of rap or not, I urge you to listen to Made In The Manor regardless. There is so much variety in this album that I truly believe there is something for everyone. He delivers the fast-paced heavy hitters with a great level of confidence and Authority. And he delivers the more introspective songs with an honest sincerity.

Don’t be a statistic blaming ghetto physics for holding you back.
— a great line from the song ‘Seashells in the East’

Along with others like JME, Akala, and Devlin, Kano is up there as one of my favourite rappers. Like those others, Kano’s sense of humour comes through in both his lyrics and his unique delivery.

He never rests on his laurels either. He could have easily delivered an hour of quick-witted, fast bars throughout and fans would have been very happy. But with Made in the Manor he has pushed himself further, whilst looking deeper within. As a result, Kano has come out the other end with a true masterpiece of an album. Not just in rap, but in all music.

Integrity by JME

Two years ago, If you’d have told me that one of my favourite ever albums would end up being a rap album, i’d have probably laughed. However that is just what Integrity by JME has become.

I should mention early on that I don’t really have any knowledge of rap music in general; only what I’ve picked up over my past 12 months or so of listening to it. But it really has grown on me, and JME’s latest album was a real gateway drug.

Some of the cleverest lyrics I’ve ever heard

The first thing that stood out to me about JME was his interesting ways of writing and forming rhymes. He has a real talent for writing with clever, and sometimes even humorous, lines. The album’s second track, “96 Fuckries” has one of my favourite verses in:

I roll with Aaron and Aaron
Frequently I get stopped by the gammon
Because my whip looks like it should be owned by Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Hammond
Feds pull me like I’m a drug baron
Chatting bare shit, can’t understand ’em
In the stereo I got Krept & Konan
In the boot I got my creps and my Canon
I don’t own a BlackBerry
Ask for my pin and get slapped heavy
Call me a rude kid or a maniac but beats?
I ain’t sharing ’em like Teddy

from 96 Fuckries by JME

from 96 Fuckries by JME

Just to point out one of the cleverest parts of that song above, specifically in the last two lines: “Call me a rude kid or a maniac but beats? I ain’t sharing ’em like Teddy”. A mate at work explained to me: Teddy Sheringham is a football player (I aint “Sheringham” liked Teddy). Get it? Such clever word play and the album Integrity is littered with clever word play like that.

For example, in one of the album’s later songs “Don’t @ Me”, featured guest – and JME’s brother – Skepta raps the following:

Hi hater
Why you wanna diss man online then say “hi” later
I already said don’t waste my time
Now I’ve gotta tell ’em don’t waste my data
I don’t wanna write a diss track for an MC
Nah, I don’t wanna waste my paper

from Don’t @ Me

from Don’t @ Me

In fact every line on this album is expertly written and performed by both JME and the guests featured throughout.

Wide range of talented guest artists

“Integrity” also has featured a host of other great rappers from the same grime scene. Jammer; D Double E; Big Narstie; Skepta and Giggs to name a few.

Arguably the album’s biggest song was the one that Giggs features on – “Man Don’t Care“. I say featured, but I think the split is pretty much 50/50 between the two of them. I actually heard JME speak in an interview recently about how “Man Don’t Care” came to be finished. I find it interesting hearing about how great songs and albums came to be.

Skepta, as mentioned before, is actually featured on two of the album’s songs, “Don’t @ me”, as mentioned above, and “Amen”. And he kills it on both.

Big Narstie is always great to listen to, whether giving advice as Uncle Pain or killing it on Fire in the booth. On “Integrity” he features on the track “Break You Down” and he doesn’t disappoint. He gives it the gusto that any fan of Narstie’s would expect from him.

I can lip-sync Integrity

The closing song, which is also the title track, “Integrity” is my favourite song on the album. This song is as great an introduction as any to JME’s music – you’ll be introduced to his skill as a writer, rapper, producer and his ability to weave his sense of humour through his lyrics. The guy absolutely nails it on every song I hear him on and I’ve heard the song “Integrity” so many times now that I can almost lip-sync it perfectly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwHsg2XO–c