Since name-dropping The Face on his 2005 breakout single Ps & Qs, Kano has had one hell of a career. His debut album, Home Sweet Home, is one of grime’s most treasured works. He’s fronted a Mercedes commercial, acted as ‘Sully’ in TV drama Top Boy and, in 2016, he made a blistering return to form musically with Made In The Manor – his Mercury Prize-nominated fifth studio album.
But between albums one and five, there were a few misses: the pop sheen of second album London Town brought smiles to the mainstream but failed to impress underground; its follow up, 140 Grime Street, had some strong tracks (Hustler, I Like It) but didn’t stick or bang as hard as its name would suggest; while Method To The Maadness – featuring dance-orientated production from Hot Chip and Boys Noize – was the experimental record some of us would like to forget.
Which leads us to Hoodies All Summer, Kane Robinson’s sixth studio album. A worthy follow up to Made In The Manor, this short 10-tracker is – much like Skepta’s latest – grime (and rap) that anyone over 25 can appreciate. A masterclass in UK lyricism, we see one of our greatest MCs at work, hop-skipping through riddims in his lyrical playground with rhymes that take us back to the good ol’ days, while touching on some serious social ills.
The sinogrime-tinged Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil places you in and amongst the city’s inner workings (“live and direct from the belly of the beast where we pour out Henny for deceased”). There’s no glamourising here, though instead he tells it how it is while instilling black pride in the people he dedicated Hoodies to. This is calmly followed by the gospel lean of Trouble, an emotive track about black-on-black violence and a washed-up government, with a visual accompaniment which is worthy of an Emmy nod.
But it’s not all dark in tone: the Popcaan-assisted Can’t Hold We Down is dedicated to Kano’s Jamaican heritage, and you can clearly hear where the grime scene’s roots begin and end; there’s the post-dubstep of Got My Brandy, Got My Beats –featuring Lil Silva – which is an introspective, lightly romantic song about a “queen who now one-finger skanks without me.” Then, there’s Class Of Deja with Ghetts and D Double E. This ode to pirate radio is already being labelled a classic, and rightly so. The entire album is produced by Blue May and Jodi Milliner – two names unfamiliar to the grime scene, but they’ve done well to capture the essence of the 18-year-old genre.
Closing track SYM, which stands for “suck your mum”, features singing from the man himself, and everything that the album is about – black pain, black pride, social injustice (“suck your mother… if you think niggas just love these cuffs and riots”) – is culminated in this one track. Hoodies All Summer concludes with the feeling that Kano’s legacy, and the high standard he reestablished for himself with Made In The Manor, is very much intact.