Minutes before Kano took to the stage of the Birmingham Town Hall, I was lucky enough to catch him for a quick interview. His sold-out UK tour is in celebration of the release of his new album, Hoodies All Summer, an observational account of ‘the hard truths of our country’s history’. Amongst other things, I found myself talking about the acoustics of a venue with this East-London legend – a topic perhaps unusual to discuss with a rapper. But Kano is in many ways unique, choosing to stay in his self-confessed own lane, as he informs me, ‘I’m not really that guy that listens to what’s going on at the moment and tries to fit in with the current situation’. This is evident in his musical presentation, crediting each member of his highly skilled band. Kano is likeable and inspiring, whilst also clearly grounded, making him a true role model to the next generation.
(Manager) We’ve got 10 minutes.
10 minutes, right, hopefully it’s working…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, can you see the wave moving?
Yeah, it’s all good. Hello, my name is Char Stape and I’m here today on behalf of Burn FM and the SRA. And, I’m lucky enough to be here with the legend that is Kano. Hiya, how’s it going?
Hello, going really well, all good.
Yeah, and we’re here ahead of your sold-out Birmingham show at the Birmingham Town Hall.
The first thing I’d like to know is, are the acoustics of a venue important to you because you have a live band?
Yeah, yeah, the acoustics are important to everyone really but definitely, you know, I’ll see my sound engineer in sound check and he’ll be like, ‘urghhh, the acoustics are giving me problems’ and whatever. And sometimes, beautiful buildings look great. I played in a venue yesterday and it had beautiful windows, stained glass windows, all around, but that’s like a nightmare for sound really, you know what I mean, and a nightmare for light as well cos it lets light in. But, ideally, my lighting guy would like blacked out rooms, so there’s always problems but sometimes you just gotta find the balance cos with this tour in particular, we tried to find just interesting places to play and not standard ones that everyone tours in and work our way to Royal Albert Hall in London. Yeah, so the venue choices were really important, although sometimes challenging.
I’ve never been to the Town Hall before, it’s normally, everything’s at the O2 Institute, so it’s really nice to kind of try a new venue. Even with the Royal Albert Hall, what does it feel like to sell out somewhere so prestigious like that and, it’s obviously quite synonymous with The Proms and everything so…
Yeah, it feels good man, really good. It’s nice cos a lot of people that are coming, even family members have never been there before, you know, so for people to come to that place and to hear our kind of music being represented in a building like that with so much history is I think quite an iconic thing you know, quite an important thing.
And you sold it out so quickly as well, so that’s really impressive. I heard it went within minutes, the tickets for the Royal Albert Hall. I’m a bit gutted that I’m not at that one cos it seems like that’s gonna be sick.
(Laughs) Yeah, it seems like the ticket that everyone wants, but erm, I think it’s partly for those reasons as well. So yeah, we just can’t wait to get there and just do our thing, you know what I mean, just do what we do there and just bring our energy into that place and not try and conform too much but, do you know what I mean, just have a good time.
Nice. Congratulations on the success of Top Boy and the release of your new album, Hoodies All Summer.
Thank you, thank you.
Obviously, we’re here to talk today about the album. So, it’s named after the lyrics in Teardrops and I’d like to know why you chose these specific lyrics for the title?
Erm, dunno really, those are just the ones that, you know, jumped out at me. I kind of played with a couple names but that really jumped out man. Erm, yeah, you know from those lyrics.
They just stood out then?
Yeah, it’s just that really and there’s a great moment in the show as well where we sing that part and we cut the beat and like the whole choir sings ‘Hoodies All Summer’ and it just feels good, feels right.
I look forward to that.
What inspired the album? What music were you listening to at the time when you created it?
Nothing really. I mean, obviously everyone listens to music in passing and what not but I wasn’t really studying any music or anything like that. Yeah, I’m not really that guy that, you know, listens to what’s going on at the moment and tries to kind of fit in with the current situation. It’s not really my vibe. So, I wasn’t really listening to too much, erm, yeah I was kind of more in a vacuum I’d say and probably inspired more by some older stuff, like Bounty Killer was a big inspiration to me on this album. But that was more in the way that he spoke about current topics and was really a spokesperson for the garrisons in Jamaica, you know what I mean, and just that voice. That voice of unity, that voice of frustration, you know what I mean, just told it how it was. So, people like that kind of inspire this album.
Nice. I saw how you created Trouble in the studio, on your Instagram, and I found that really impressive.
(Laughs) Well, that was just like, almost like how it was today when I walked in. Sam was on the piano, played that riff, Jodi, who produced the album, he was on bass and I just jumped on the mic and we just started vibing and that happened.
So, it’s a real team effort as well?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s always, you know, a team thing and just working with great musicians and great producers and just creating a space where everyone feels like they can bring an idea to the table, you know what I mean?
It’s not like, ‘ah this is my part’ or ‘I have to stay in this zone’. It’s like nah if you have an idea, bring it and that’s the kinda…To be fair, when we toured like 3 years ago for the last album, it was this team I was with and we tried to take that attitude to the studio to make this album and everyone is important and everyone’s amazing and it’s sick so…I think it really comes across on the record.
Well certainly, just from the clip I saw on Instagram it was really impressive just there.
Yeah it was a beautiful moment, beautiful moment.
Yeah, and Trouble is perhaps one of my favourite songs from the album but I’d like to know what your favourite song is? If you have one.
I got through different…I think, you know, it has been Trouble.Teardrops is definitely one of mine, Got My Brandy, Got My Beats, those are probably my persies but then when the album came out, I was really into Free Years and Good Youtes. Performing it live, we done it with D Double and Ghetts, Class of…SYM is big for me. So, different tunes for different times, you know what I mean.
With regards to SYM, I found it interesting how you managed to balance elements of humour on the album, alongside portraying a sense of both loss and hope, so with Pan-Fried and songs like that…
Yeah, I think that was important, especially on SYM, to deliver that message in that way. Because it’s like you don’t even understand what…At first, you’re kind of in on a joke kind of thing, and then you’re just like vibing for a minute and then when you listen more, you’re like, ‘oh wow, you’re saying some real things’ and then your facial expression changes and you’re like, ‘oh,’ you know what I mean, and then start talking some hard truths about our country’s history. But, if I just came on and was angry, ‘and you done this to us’ you know, it probably wouldn’t be received in the same way.
It’s certainly a very observational album I think.
Yeah, yeah definitely. Definitely.
In Free Years Later, you say, ‘What D Double did for me, I just do for the youtes,’ and I’d like to know if you see yourself as a role model and if your view, like your perspective of yourself and your responsibility, has changed since you started out in the industry?
Erm, it probably has but, you know, that’s probably with just growing, with my brother having kids and they’re older now, they’re teenagers so obviously I would like to be putting out the right energy, leading by example and hopefully being a decent person; that’s just in my personal life. In terms of music, yeah, it’s not necessarily about being a role model, but it’s just about inspiring a generation beneath me, you know what I mean.
I feel like you’re definitely doing that.
Hopefully. And that’s not something I have to wear every day, you know, with every decision, ‘I shouldn’t do that because de de de…’. It’s like, I still just like heart lead, you know what I mean. But, like I said, what people like D Double done for me, without even knowing it, was inspire me and they made me believe that I could do it because he was from the same place I was from and I looked up to him. That’s probably happening with me, so it’s not necessarily about taking on the responsibility in a daunting way and waking up with that pressure on your shoulders, but it’s just like yeah lead by example man.
Yeah, it definitely comes across in your music. Finally, in your final track SYM, you say, ‘That might be the hook I retire after,’ where next basically? What have you got planned for the future?
(Laughs) I dunno. Erm, I dunno man, I dunno. Hopefully I’ll be inspired to make another album again, cos I love music but I don’t like to force music or just, you know, just make music on schedule. Another album out next year, it’s like great if I make something that I feel is amazing, maybe I will have an album out in the next year but, I dunno.
I feel like with your work, it’s definitely quality over quantity as well.
Yeah, but sometimes you catch a vibe and you’re just in the zone and something happens really quickly. It didn’t happen for the last couple albums but, I dunno, maybe it can happen like that. Hopefully more music and just more stuff man, just interesting creations and yeah, just goodness.
Mm, well I look forward to seeing what comes and thank you so much for sitting with me today.
And good luck for your show, I can’t wait to see it personally.
Thanks very much, I appreciate it.
So yeah, that’s been Kano and thank you so much!
Ite, big up.
Written by Char Stape.