Thank goodness Jay-Z didn’t blow up at the same age that Nas did. Jigga, aged 20, wouldn’t have handled it as well as Carter, aged 26. Some people just need a bit more time to bubble up, and others just can’t handle success at such a young age. Kano, who seemed like the real “new UK version of Jay-Z” in 2005 did well on his first outing, “Home Sweet Home” – if it wasn’t a 10.0 classic album, it was certainly at least a classic DEBUT, especially from a kid barely out of his teens. Of course, ignominy beckoned – a lame sophomore that seemed thrust upon him by a moronic label, who subsequently gave him the elbow. Now, for the moment at least, he is doing it himself – and his strong third LP “140 Grime Street,” reviewed last week, proved that his lyrics, at least, will provide a cushion for Kano throughout even the darkest of times.
Whilst “140 Grime Street” provided a return to form, of sorts, his debut will surely stand the test of time as a great first outing. Perhaps riding on The Streets’ wave of popularity circa 2004, “Home Sweet Home” gave us a blend of formulaic but successful singles, alongside rule-breaking gems. Kano also managed to make a dent on the charts – if not a huge one, but enough to get him noticed in a major way. More than this, a crisis of confidence (which has probably since returned) had hung over the UK hip hop scene, and Kano’s breezy self-assuredness and laid-back vocals gave the industry a much needed shot in the arm. In other words, just why the fuck should UK hip hop MC’s be making albums that weren’t on par with their more experienced American brothers? Confidence, not the ridiculous and meaningless catchphrase “swag,” is what the UK scene needed, and got. For a while, at least.
Remarkably consistent throughout, HSH never drops below a 7.0 and tends to hover around the 8.5 mark, whilst occasionally bursting through the 9.5 barrier. The strongest tracks tend to come in the first half of the LP, including his now classic “P’s & Q’s” – the breakout underground single that initially got him noticed on the map. Sparse and dark DaVinche beats underlay Kano’s witty threats, and one immediately felt the upward jolt in commercial lyrical levels. The incredible Diplo-produced “Reload It,” an almost laid-back junglist mash-up, lays up the rock-tinged “Typical Me” – a fight music track that somewhat annoyed me at the time, but on the album proves irresistible. Other highlights include a crossover attempt for the ladeez “Nite Nite” featuring The Streets – like “Typical Me” a real grower on the LP itself. As for the album tracks like the impressive title track that opens the hour of entertainment is a lyrical stunner, the heartfelt “Sometimes” and the Latino rhythms of “Remember Me.” There are less successful songs, but, as previously stated, none of them are wack, and they generally help to carry the album along at an impressive rate.
This is probably one of the most accessible UK hip hop albums that the American market will find. Kano serves up an extremely successful debut that may not rival “Reasonable Doubt” – but still managed to have been one of the most BALANCED hip hop albums to emerge from the UK, pretty much ever. What has happened to him since is pretty shameful, and 679 really dropped the ball when they had such a talented artist on their books, one that could have been a major star for them. From 2004 to 2006, there were many reasons for the UK hip hop scene to be, for the first time ever, genuinely optimistic about building a sustained market for themselves, both here and abroad. It seems, however, that the main stars have already fallen victim to various banana skins. Akala’s first album was so promising, his second one shockingly bad. Sway started off well, took almost three years to craft his sophomore, and didn’t even break into the Top 40. Klashnekoff’s follow-up to a stunning debut was flat and hardly memorable. Kano? Dropped after album number two. The ONLY real winner thus far is Dizzee Rascal who has, year on year, built and improved his craft for a wider audience – having topped the charts for a month this summer with “Dance Wiv Me,” a song that opened last week’s episode of “Entourage,” he surely has the world at his feet. As for Kano, he might be off the charts for now, but with the right team around him, there is no reason why he can’t get back on the map. There aren’t too many UK hip hop albums from this decade that I could confidently recommend to a US market, expecting them to understand it fully, but “Home Sweet Home” is definitely one of them.