Grime’s recent revival seemed for a long time to have passed Kano by, with nothing heard from the writer of “P’s and Q’s” long after Stormzy had appeared seemingly from nowhere, JME had released his most successful album to date and Skepta and Lethal Bizzle had dragged Grime from Room 2 into the spotlight with “Shutdown” and “Fester Skank” respectively.
“Made in the Manor” is Kano’s answer to the question posed by his absence, and by and large it’s a very satisfying answer indeed. From the opening Track “Hail”, with its ominous backing track and driving bass, through to standout track “3 Wheel-ups” featuring stellar verses from Giggs and Wiley, it seems like Kano has lost none of his ability or aggression during his time away. The album does tail off slightly in the middle, with slower songs like “Little Sis” and “Deep Blues” featuring Damon Albarn blunting the raw energy of the opening salvo, before switching back to the original fury on the bonus tracks “Garageskankfreestyle” and “Flow of the Year” featuring JME. The middle portion is packed full of meaning and is obviously deeply personal to Kano, but musically it just doesn’t work quite as well as the more ‘traditional’ and aggressive Grime tracks at the beginning and end of the album, and would perhaps work better if it wasn’t sandwiched in between said tracks.
Part of Kano seems happy to revel in the lifestyle of the Grime superstar, with the line “Pussy and rum, that’s a rider for real OG’s” on “3 Wheel-ups” clearly showing that poetry doesn’t have to be meaningful to sound great. On the other hand “Made in the Manor” is more introspective than Grime has ever been before and songs like “Deep Blues” show that Kano isn’t scared to provide a critical look at his childhood and the violence and death that came with it. Just don’t expect the songs that grapple with these issues to be as catchy or danceable as others on the album and you’ll appreciate them a lot more, even if they do make the album feel more than a little bit schizophrenic.
Overall “Made in the Manor” is as much a trip down memory lane as it is a brand new album, with call-backs like “back when Lethal Bizzle was Lethal B” and references to D Double E and “Doin’ it Again” by Skepta being a clear nod to Grime’s heritage and the original artists that are taking part in the current revival. This sense of nostalgia goes further than the Grime scene however, with constant references to London and its history, from Reggie Kray to jellied eels and wagon wheels, showing that no matter how many US rappers are signed to BBK and how many American tours artists like Skepta go on, Grime is still a peculiarly and proudly British phenomenon, one that was born in London and Made in the Manor.