Ten years after his debut album, five years since his last album, the former N.A.S.T.Y Crew MC Kano from East Ham is back with the album Made in the Manor. Having dropped the song ‘Endz’ and documentary of the same name before the release of this project, Kano gave us an inkling of what this album would sound like. He set a tone for our anticipation of this album through the piano based track, everything screamed introspect and homage to what made him, without the need of a 140. A welcome display for a grime artist. This is why it’s surprising on first listen, that the opening track ‘Hail‘ is so different to our preconceptions of the record. It’s hard hitting and uncomfortable, it really is a welcome to the jungle. The lack of comfort is deliberate, mind. Whilst the idea behind this track as a welcome to the East End and also a warning is effective this isn’t the sound that was expected and maybe even wanted. However, there is a message here through lyrics like “This ain’t no RP cup of tea music, it’s real East End theme music”Kano paints the scene for us of him, the scene and his end.
‘Hail‘ is followed by ‘T-shirt Weather In The Manor’, a song with a much lighter style of production and a stronger sense of introspection. Lyrically, Kano delivers when rapping but with the hook its calling out for a guest vocal. As he hits us with “T-shirt weather in the manor my friend” you’re left in want of a Kwes type vocal instead of Kano’s attempt. The following song, ‘New Banger’ is probably the weakest on the album. Not necessarily because it’s a bad song, it just doesn’t really fit, it’s out of place. Having just listened to ‘T-shirt Weather In The Manor’ with its deep pianos and story filled lines, ‘New Banger’ seems more like an interruption rather than a continuation.
The album really starts at track 4 in terms of quality, theme wise, ‘3-Wheel-ups’ is a demonstration of the talent the UK has. It’s aggressive, again a depart from the sound that ‘T-shirt Weather In The Manor’ set but it can get away with it. The instrumental based on the same repeated chord progression is really effective as a plateau for Kano, Wiley and Giggs to show off on the track. The flows here are really impressive and the hook is also effective.
“3 wheel-ups in a row That means I’m a direct rudeboy 22 yats of my own That means I’m a direct rudeboy”
Track 5 is ‘This Is England’ and suddenly we’re back at what we thought this album would sound like. We’re back at what we thought this album would deliver lyrically. He describes how England is a place where you can be a villain or a victim, a reference to the evil of money in England. Making it out is the goal it seems but there is a homage, there that suggests that he’s never leaving.
‘Little Sis’ is the standout track on the album. The instrumental is so adhering , the added synths in the background really compliment the aesthetic this song creates. Kano describes a distanced sibling and their lack of relationship. It’s not without want however, Kano asks whether she’s listening to this and how he’s missed the landmarks in her life, 13, 16, 18 he recites. It’s deep and honest , a really a great moment on the album. The album follows accord from here on in and does it well. ‘A Roadman’s Hymn’ again utilizes synths so well whilst the instrumental remains soft enough to emphasize the deepness of the track. The track describes how people on the block make mistakes but they can change, they have uses, you just have to find them.
“Please free the mandem that’s locked up, I ain’t saying that they never fucked up , but where is forgiveness.”
He talks about drug dealers and whilst realizes they’re in the wrong identifies that they know business. The guy that breaks into cars he could fix them. Sometimes we only see blemish… Kano found bars in music luckily he suggests and understands that the other bars could have been a reality. ‘Drinking In The West End’ is a nice parallel to have in the album, comparing East to West. Kano opens describing how they’re leaving the ends for the night, all you want to do when you’re in the ends. “Alcohol in my system now the courage is all liquid..then a taxi back to that realness”. The East is always a part of him even if the West End is a welcome vacation.
‘Deep Blues’ featuring Damon Albarn is about the lack of realness in the world. Kano laments how we’re rapping for fashion and the material but hidden within these flows is undeniable passion which just needs to be teased out. He also realizes his imperfections and how he forgets how real life is sometimes, he suggests “Found out that my bredrins mum’s got cancer whilst I’m online looking at back shots of the week”. The contrast between his life and those around him, what they’re going through almost pains Kano. It’s a rude awakening. The hypnotic guest vocals in the background of the song really help build it as one of the best records on the album.
‘Endz’ needs no introduction, the homage and introspect this track provides is outstanding. Kano is reflective, even though he has made it now, he has not forgotten. Lines like “I drive Mercs past poor people. They look at me like they saw a king. And I just wanna let the morgues in” really suggest this. He follows throughout the track a similar notion knowing he won’t get played on the radio, never become super famous, but he’ll take that to speak on what he feels. Speak for his people, his culture and his community. Even though he reflects, Kano realizes the position he’s in and the weight that comes with that. Quoting Shakespeare he states “Heavy is the head that wears the crown though. I feel under pressure just to provide for the famo. I’m in disposition so I never tell a man “no”.” Kano knows there are many who want to drag him down, but at the same time he owes the ‘Endz’ , they made him and thus, he has a disposition. The combination of reflection and reality comes with many signs of respect to the old heads of the game, throughout the track.
‘Strangers’ , ‘Seashells In The East’ and ‘My Sound’ continue Kano’s introspective theme to this album to good effect. ‘My Sound’ being particularly upbeat in its production style, a nice way to finish the album. Whilst, it’s nice to have songs like ‘Flow of the Year’ featuring JME , ‘New Banger’ and ‘3 Wheel-ups’ it’s when Kano brings us back to the basics, the lyrics, where this album shines. If the album started with ‘This Is England’ and we got ‘3 Wheel-ups’ as a bonus this would be a much more complete project. When Kano brings us to his ends, his life then and now and what has made him we really are blessed. This album is a reminder that sometimes we can ditch the 140, get back to the basics and produce a really good piece of work.