Making his rounds on the week his second album, London Town, dropped, Kane â€˜Kanoâ€™ Robinson passed through Londonâ€™s premier hip-hop spot, Deal Real, to perform a few tracks and chop it up with the fans. He has been hailed by the likes of Jay-Z, RZA, Andre 3000 and Chuck D as one of the UKâ€™s brightest hopes on the mic. And he doesnâ€™t seem to have any problem shouldering those accolades. A gifted footballer, Kano turned his back on sport, making his name on pirate radio stations and at raves throughout the UK.
Indeed, Mr. Robinson reckons it was his early days that provided him with some of his favourite musical memories. â€œI just love that â€“ tight spaces, everyone crammed in, people going crazy.â€ 679 Recordings snapped him up and released Home Sweet Home in June 2005. It was a big year for him: in addition to all the critical acclaim his album drew, he was named as one of Londonâ€™s Heroes for the year by Mayor Ken Livingstone. In person, the 22-year-old rapper from East Ham is especially humble for someone who wrote the lyric â€œK, be-have / nah, they love me / and at the shows, they scream Fuck me Fuck me!â€ Thereâ€™s a savvy about Kano that belies his youth. He poses for every fanâ€™s picture with a smile. In the digital age, when people donâ€™t even have to physically go to the shops to buy music anymore, public appearances are his chance to reach out to his audience. The Q&A session was illuminating for both artist and the audience, as the fans got to find out how the mind of a star-in-the-making works and Kano learned that he had followers as far away as Los Angeles.
His sophomore album is a departure from his roots in Londonâ€™s grime scene. Folk, R and B, bashment and rock artists all pitched in to give his sound an extra dimension this time around. With this one, heâ€™s ready to take on not just mainstream Britainâ€™s pre-conceptions of black music, but also by the look of his release date, Kanye and 50 Cent, too.
â€œit was about bringing them into my world and making something that they wouldnâ€™t have done or maybe I wouldnâ€™t have done and making something unique and special.â€
Format: So, on the album â€“ youâ€™ve got a whole bunch of guests Kate Nash, Vybz Kartel, Damon Albarn and Craig David. Was it a conscious decision to have artists who reflected different scenes in London on it or was it just how it worked out?
Kano: It really just came together like that. To tell the truth, at the start Iâ€™d done all the tracks by myself, and Vybz Kartel was the first person that I wanted to work with outside of the two producers I was working with. Iâ€™d just worked with Fraser and Mikey for the album â€“ they worked on my last album, and I was only working with them and I was getting in session vocalists, as I needed them, but Vybz Kartel was the first person. And I went to do that in Jamaica and it turned out well. I dunno â€“ I just like working with people that, I see that our styles could blend. It werenâ€™t really about me making a dancehall track, working with Damon it werenâ€™t really about me making a Gorillaz track or a Blur track, or whatever. The same with everyone: it was about bringing them into my world and making something that they wouldnâ€™t have done or maybe I wouldnâ€™t have done and making something unique and special. It wasnâ€™t a decision I had from later to try and work with people from outside my genre.
Format: You came up on pirate radio, and now that youâ€™ve got the new album coming out youâ€™ll be on the road touring, but should heads still expect to see you popping up in a rave for a clash?
Kano: Nah, Iâ€™m not gonna clash for the sake of it. Iâ€™m doing a tour, do gigs and stuff. Hit the festivals. I donâ€™t really do pirate radio, at the moment. Iâ€™m gonna start doing some under 18 shows, though, because I think when we were coming up, after the pirate radios we took it to the rave and thatâ€™s where we really made our names on the underground, so Iâ€™m gonna do a couple of them and get that vibe. Itâ€™s hard to create the vibe of when you used to perform, coming up. I just love that â€“ tight spaces, everyone crammed in, people going crazy, so Iâ€™m gonna do some of that to. Itâ€™s not all just festivals.
Format: You had a rhyme â€œNext year I might have a movie in the shopsâ€ and you had a little role in Rolling With The Nines.
Kano: Understatement of the year â€“ little.
Format: Do you have any plans to move into acting when youâ€™re done with the rapping thing? Were those clues you were leaving out there?
Kano: I was getting a lot of offers at that point, when I wrote that lyric. I had just done the Rolling With The Nines thing. I dunno, itâ€™s never really been the right time. It was either, they wanted to shoot while I was recording and I didnâ€™t wanna take too much time out. Iâ€™m a music man at heart. Itâ€™s all about music for me at the moment. Offers come up, and if itâ€™s right than Iâ€™ll do it, but I just donâ€™t want to jump into something for the hell of it. If Iâ€™m gonna do something properly and seriously and really study it so, itâ€™s just music right now.
Format: What sort of roles were you offered?
Kano: Thereâ€™s your stereotypical role, like be an MC. I didnâ€™t really wanna do that. There was another role â€“ a football player â€“ that came from a street background and got into football and was being dragged back into the streets through peer pressure and stuff. That was quite appealing to me, but it just wasnâ€™t the right time.
Format: Being a fan of what the shops call the urban genre and having released an album yourself this week, what did you make of the whole 50 Cent and Kanye battle for sales and publicity? Did you back either one of them in particular?
Kano: You know what, I bought both. I bought mine, too!
Format: Well, youâ€™ve got to.
Kano: I always thought 50 Cent was going to win in terms of record sales internationally, but I always thought Kanye would win in the UK and as it stands now Kanyeâ€™s at number one, I think. Heâ€™s beaten 50, but I think 50 will win in the long term.
Format: He was saying that heâ€™s ready to pack it all in now.
Kano: Nah, he shouldnâ€™t do that I like both of them. Theyâ€™re two completely different artists. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a case of going in a shop and really having to make a decision. You like Kanye or you like 50. In my case, I like both of them. Theyâ€™re so different. I like 50â€™s album, itâ€™s like the old 50: a lot of hard beats. The Kanye album is what you expect from a Kanye album, itâ€™s very clever music.
Format: So whatâ€™s next for Kano?
Kano: Next for me, is to go on tour and really promote this album. I think it deserves a big push as far as the record label and as far as Iâ€™m concerned, Iâ€™m gonna get out there and do all the work I need to do, because I spent a lot of time on the album and Iâ€™m really happy with it. I think itâ€™s something people need to hear, so Iâ€™m gonna tour it up and down the UK thatâ€™s from the end of September through October and then I think in November, Iâ€™m gonna go to Europe, do a few things in Germany, France, Scandinavia and them places and then to tell the truth Iâ€™m gonna take a break around Christmas time and then I wanna just make another album.
Format: Youâ€™re looking to go again, already?
Kano: On the low, though! Iâ€™m just gonna sneak in the studio. I keep getting ideas. As soon as the album finished, I was like â€˜Oh, one more thing!â€™ thatâ€™s why the album took so long to come out. I got the bug for it. Now, I just want to make another one.
More Info: http://www.myspace.com/kano679