#ThrowbackThursday 'Home Sweet Home Season' Kano and his working relationship with Fraser T Smith and Mikey
Author: Daniel David | Thursday 11th June 2020
After some technical issues we are back! I have already looked at the opening two tracks where I looked at how Kano had to navigate between the mainstream and the ends and then the next 2 track, the classic single P's and Q's and Reload It with D Double E and Demon
This week, I double down, and look at 4 songs! The first one was the second single and stands out on the album, the next 3 are a trio of Mikey J produced tracks which see Kano get more personal and introspective than we had seen previously on this album. Let's get to it.
Typical Me featuring Ghetto
The second single released from the album, one much different from the first. A rock influenced beat provided by frequent Stormzy and Dave collaborator Fraser T. Smith, this track sees Kano and Ghetts discuss the problems with bouncers, and their need to start something unnecessarily
I must have one of those faces, It's stuck with me, I can't change it, I ain't troublesome, I'm the safest, But they won't let my clique in Faces, Cause I must be one of them artists that gets kicked out the club the fastest, Cause bouncers think they're the hardest
To go with a song like this as a second single was an interesting choice following P’s and Q’s, a real change from the DaVinChe classic. Because it also isn’t a song that was going for mainstream attention. In fact it reminds me of the Mitchell Brothers or The Streets songs that were also released around this time, things like Routine Check or Harvey Nicks or any of The Streets singles, relatable storytelling songs. This might be down to the label, with all of them on labels that were affiliated with Warner. It works as a song, but it was just an interesting choice as a single. It also is a change of pace from some of the Grime songs we have already heard, up tempo with Kano showing his prowess. Instead on this one he slows things down in order to tell the story.
It's also a daring choice to have such a rock influenced beat. In an interview with Complex, producer Fraser T. Smith said "It’s the freedom with grime, and even garage before it which I was also really into. The first grime artist I ever met was Kano. We did a guitar track together that turned into “Typical Me” and, for me, it was the way that the genres could blend." This is the second track produced by Smith, the first one being Ghetto Kid, also featuring Ghetto. Kano has gone on to work with Smith again, he worked on half of the follow up to 'Home Sweet Home,' 'London Town,' one track on 'Method to the Maadness' and almost half of 'Made in the Manor' including the classic 'T-Shirt Weather in the Manor.' Smith has also of course worked a lot with Stormzy and Dave, executing producing 'Gang Signs and Prayer' and 'Psychodrama' along with working on Dave's 2 EPs and providing beats for 'Heavy is the Head' including the single 'Audacity' with Headie One. Smith's work in Grime and Hip Hop has produced amazing music and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
Kano drops a funny bar in the last line “I'll probably get nominated and kicked out the Brits.” Looking back at this line, where now Kano graces Royal Albert Hall, GQ Awards, Jools Holland, shows the journey that Kano has been on both as a person and as an artist in these past 15 years, he’s never been kicked out of those.
Ghetts comes through at the end, telling us how he never wants to be involved with the madness, he just wants to sit back and drink but “for some reason, I gotta face they all wanna ramp with." Again seeing how young these 2 look in the video and what they are spitting about and to see their maturation and progress throughout their career is amazing.
I have previously talked about how great the remix to this song is but it built on the greatness of the original. This song is the beginning of a 3 track run for producer Mikey J who of course produced the opening title track. This song is energy, Kano comes out of the gate within seconds of the tune starting staking his claim.
I couldn't give a fuck about your reputation, I'm the star from the top like Christmas decorations.
There is a grandiosity to the beat, giving Kano the perfect platform to prove that he is the best. The first 10 bars see him spitting over a sparse beat, building up to the drop. One thing about Mikey J’s beats on this album, is that they’re not static, they’re not 4 bar or 8 bar loops, they’re cinematic, evolving with the song, giving Kano the perfect soundtrack. This track is about spitting, radio, clashing all of it, with Kano showing why he is the best. The first few bars are an attack against a fictional enemy who has called Kano out, with Kano showing that they made the wrong decision to send for him:
I'm tired of rhyming but I am a, Pain in the backside, your plan backfired, You can look up anyone that's tried, They can't merk me never that, that's right
Despite the bravado, Kano still takes the time to shout out some of the MCs he respects:
But rhyme-wise I got a short order of mine, Doogz, Dee, Wiley, Ghetto, these have got new flows all the time
All of them, Goodz, D Double E, Wiley and Ghetts are still revered today so Kano made some good choices.
The energy that this track brings transferred when Stormzy used the beat for ‘Still Disappointed’ earlier this year as part of his clash with Wiley. It is interesting that Stormzy was initially questioned about his usage of a drill beat for the first song, when he was calling himself the king of grime. It is a testament to this beat that in order to prove himself on Grime, he went for a beat that was 15 years old but still held up. When I first watched the video and I heard the video I was gassed.
As Mikey J produced this and the next 3 tracks, it is only right to highlight him. An incredible producer, most of his work in grime and hip hop was with Kano. He produced 4 tracks on Home Sweet Home, 5 on the follow up 'London Town' and then all but 5 tracks on '140 Grime Street' Kano's return to the grime scene. The 2 collaborated on the 'Not on the A List' EP. He was last featured on Made in the Manor were he produced stand out tracks 'Endz' and 'Roadman's Hymn.' Many of the beats that Mikey J has provided Kano on his albums have been more sombre, brooding beats, giving Kano the space and the sountrack to get more introspective.
Things take a more somber introspective turn on these next 2 tracks. On Sometimes, Kano unpacks a lot, from questioning why fans like him, to if going mainstream is the best idea. Kano doesn’t see himself as anything special, despite the plaudits he has received
When I see the fans go mad I think why do they like me?, There's about a thousand other boys just like me, Spitting lyrics on the mic dressed in Nike, What makes me so special?
There is a vulnerability in this song that Kano continued to exhibit throughout his career which is particularly interesting as he is such a talented MC, one of the best in this country in fact. In the next few lines he questions it even further:
When they say I'm the next one to blow I say why do they think me?, All I do is stay in mostly and sleep, And all I do is watch Channel U and drink tea, why me?
For the questions that Kano is asking on this song, it is important to understand the context, that it wasn’t common for Grime or UK Hip Hop to make it anywhere in the charts or in the mainstream. There were a few songs here and there, but in total, Grime and UK Hip Hop were neglected. So when Kano asks on the chorus
So sometimes you'll see me in a daydream, Thinking could the underground go mainstream
This was just a genuine question that rappers and MCs had to tackle with those days. This then affects how you approach music, is it a labour of love or means to make money? Kano addresses that question with:
I'm moving on now, wish me good luck, My manager said this the quickest deal ever, I said 18 years ain't the quickest deal ever, I'm trying to sell and make the quickest meal ever, Support my family so I can feel better, But it’s not for the cheddar, It's not for the fame, It's not for the Rolex, It's not for the chain, It's just for the respect, I've been doing this for years, Remember, free of charge I ain't rich yet
With these bars, Kano shows the split in the road Kano was facing at this time. He had put in years of work to get signed to a major label, with the end goal being supporting his family, not trying to make huge amounts of money or to gain material possessions. He asserts this in the last line where he reminds everyone that up until then, he was doing it all for free, pirate radio, raves etc.
The second verse, Kano opens up even more, exposing the vulnerabilities he touched on in the first verse, asking why he was the one chosen to get signed:
I ain't doubting my ability but sometimes I think why me particularly? What different have I got to offer lyrically? But maybe there is something about me that the worlds dying to see
But am I gifted? Maybe I am, 18 I'm only a baby, I am they say
And again questioning the album, will it sell why is he making it:
It's so real now, I've had dreams of this album, So reality is the theme of this album ,Boy I dunno if I'll make cream off this album, I just wanna see fans screaming and shouting
This is very telling of someone’s approach to an album. He isn’t make the album for mainstream appeal, instead he is trying to get his fans to support it. Albums like that have longevity, which is evident by the success of the album and how we still talk about it 10 years later.
Much like Mic Check, this also got a remix, with none other than Klashnekoff, check that one out as well:
9 to 5
Kano sheds those insecurities on this next one and shows his work rate and determination is what has got him to the point he is.
All I know is a 9 to 5 ain't cutting it, Man I work hard, you really think its luck init?, They say it’s not what ya know but who ya know?, Shut up, it’s how hard you work and how good you flow!
Kano then goes biographical, telling us about his football career, that it didn’t take off partly due to his lack of enthusiasm, but when he did have a chance he would excel “Started sub as the manager's tactics, But when I did play I used to score hat-tricks.” But when he took up music properly, that became his passion and he wasn’t going to lose focus. If you look at the longevity of Kano’s career, it is a testament to both the quality of stuff he has released and his work ethic, again doing things in his own time when he was ready, not rushing it out to get caught up in what is hot in the mainstream at the time.
After one verse, we get Kano spitting the chorus over and over again, almost like a mantra “I can't take a nine to five, I'll rhyme for life , I stay up writing lyrics from nine to five…” as Mikey J does a madness in the background adding synths, keys to signify the importance of what Kano is saying.
This trio of Mikey J produced tracks really tell a story. Mic Check is the Grime MC, killing radio, killing raves, killing clashes, an underground legend which leads into Sometimes, Kano questioning his mainstream appeal, why he has chosen out of so many other MCs to get signed and have this opportunity to really make a name for himself on a grander stage. These insecurities are then shed on 9 to 5, as Kano reminds us and himself that he did by putting in work, that he wants to excel and not have to fall back on another job, and that the reason why he is so revered in the scene is because he put work in to perfect his skills.
Next week the album takes a turn with Nite Nite, Brown Eyes, Remember Me and I Don’t Know Why.