Kane Robinson (born 21 May 1985), better known as Kano, is an English rapper and actor from East Ham, London. He is a significant contributor and is considered one of the forefathers of grime. In 2004, Kano released his debut single "P's and Q's", which was an underground hit within the grime community. After signing to 679 Recordings, Kano released his debut studio album Home Sweet Home (2005), which peaked at number 36 on the UK Albums Chart and featured the top 30 singles "Typical Me" and "Nite Nite". This was followed by the album London Town (2007), featuring Kano's highest-charting single "This is the Girl" featuring Craig David. Through Bigger Picture Music, Kano released his third and fourth albums, 140 Grime St (2008) and Method to the Maadness (2010), both which charted in the top 50.
After signing to Parlophone and six years without a studio release, Kano released his fifth album Made in the Manor (2016), Kano's most successful album to date. It was critically acclaimed by music critics and charted at number 8 in the UK Albums Chart, becoming Kano's highest-charting release, as well as being considered one of the best albums of 2016 by numerous publications. Kano achieved his first top 10 album of his career in the same year as fellow British rappers Skepta and Giggs. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Mercury Prize and won Best Album at the 2016 MOBO Awards.
Kano is widely considered an influential and founding figure in grime and British hip hop music and culture, alongside artists such as Skepta, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal.
2000–03: Early years
Kano attended Langdon Secondary School, achieving a diploma in graphic design. In his younger years Robinson was a promising footballer, representing Chelsea, West Ham United and Norwich City by the age of 13, but in the end he abandoned his sporting ambitions in favour of a musical career.
He joined N.A.S.T.Y. Crew (Natural Artistic Sounds Touching You) who were an east London-based Grime crew whose original line-up consisted of Kano, Marcus Nasty, Jammer, D Double E, Ghetts, Stormin, Mak 10, Monkstar, Sharky Major, Armour & Hyper. N.A.S.T.Y Crew had a popular show on pirate radio station Deja Vu; airing Monday nights from 8pm to 10pm, the sets featuring established and up and coming special guests such as Dizzee Rascal, Durrty Goodz, Wiley etc.
Kano used the crew's underground popularity as a springboard and left N.A.S.T.Y. His first solo track was "Boys Love Girls", produced in 2002, and was later taken to a studio and remastered by Dizzee Rascal. He was then signed as a solo artist and began work on his début solo album, Home Sweet Home.
2004–05: Home Sweet Home
In 2004, Kano was approached by Hugo Boss to model for their Spring/Summer collection, but declined to begin recording and touring commitments. Shortly afterwards Kano released his debut solo single, "P's & Q's", on a 12" vinyl-only release, which was a massive underground hit, marking Kano out as a rising star.
In 2005 Kano released his second single, "Typical Me", his first full single release, produced by Dirty Rag. "Typical Me" reached No. 22 in the UK Singles Charts. The video for "Typical Me" was directed by Andy Hylton. The third single, "Remember Me", fared less well in the charts, reaching No. 71. Two weeks later, on 27 June 2005, Kano's début album Home Sweet Home was released. The week his album was released, it was the highest new entry, debuting inside the UK top 40 at No. 36. In September 2005, the fourth single "Nite Nite" was released, featuring Leo the Lion and The Streets. "Nite Nite" hit No. 25 in the UK charts, spending six weeks altogether on the top 75.
Shortly after the release of "Nite Nite", a promotional video for "Reload It", which featured live performance clips and backstage footage, was released to UK video station, Channel U to promote the album further. In December 2005, Kano released a remixed version of album track "Nobody Don't Dance No More" featuring Katie Pearl, as a download-only single. The track was also featured as a B-side on CD: 2 of "Nite Nite". On 13 March 2006 Kano released the fifth and final single from the album, a double A-side of "Brown Eyes" and "Signs in Life". The single was released on a vinyl format only, and included a free sticker, which made it ineligible for chart inclusion.
Home Sweet Home gained Gold status in the UK. The album was well reviewed across the British press, most notably in The Independent and The Observer, two of the UK's major newspapers.
Kano's music was also featured on Run the Road, a 2005 compilation featuring 16 grime tracks. The compilation included contributions from other grime artists including: Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Lady Sovereign. Kano performed a verse on the track "Destruction VIP" and was featured on three other tracks, including "P's and Q's".
2006–07: London Town
On 23 March 2006 Kano performed at Anson Rooms in Bristol for MTV2's Spanking New Music along with JME, N-Dubz and Unklejam. He performed tracks including "London Town", "P's & Q's", "Brown Eyes", "Me & My Mic" and tracks from the Beats & Bars mixtape. Kano confirmed on the show that his next album was to be called London Town.
Before London Town was released, Kano put out a mixtape (simply called Mixtape on the front cover) for promotion. This included new material such as I Write Bars Till The Milkman Comes, the track Layer Cake (inspired by the film Layer Cake) and also Kano's own versions of hip-hop songs, including Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement", Nas's "Black Republican" and Kanye West's "My Way Home". The mixtape also included a preview of "Buss It Up", a song that featured on the later release London Town.
London Town was released on 10 September 2007, preceded by the single "This Is The Girl", featuring Craig David, on 27 August. Along with Craig David the album features collaborations with Blur and Gorillaz front-man Damon Albarn, Kate Nash, and Vybz Kartel.
After the release of the album, Kano toured the UK as well as performing the whole album at the Jazz Cafe in October 2007 alongside a live band. Kano also sold out London Astoria in the same month to put on an entertaining show also promoting Tinchy Stryder on his tour.
2008–09: 140 Grime St and MC No. 1
In 2008, Kano no longer was signed to 679 Recordings as he wished to return to his "grimier roots" and had posted all new freestyles on his Myspace page. Soon after in April, he released a mixtape called MC No. 1 for fans before his third album 140 Grime Street hit the shelves. Despite the fact that Kano had said he wanted to go back to making grime music for 140 Grime Street, in MC No. 1 he used all American hip hop beats for the songs, yet it was still well received by fans.
140 Grime Street was released on 29 September 2008 through BPM (Bigger Picture Music). The majority of the album was produced by Mikey J, with Wiley and DaVinChe supplying two beats each, and Skepta handing the production for the song "These MC's". The album featured guest appearances from Ghetto, Skepta, Wiley, and Mikey J. The first single released was Hustler.
Kano's new single, "Rock N Rolla", was first premiered on Radio 1xtra DJ Mista Jam's radio show. The single was officially released in October. The video for the single has since been released.
"More Than One Way" was premiered on Mista Jam's 1xtra radio show. The video was also released on Kano's official YouTube page. The track was written for a campaign to promote the Diploma and was given away for free exclusively from The Diploma website. The music video was made with the help of Diploma students from all around the country. The TV ad shows Kano walking through a crowd of students whose Diploma qualifications pop up in bubbles above them. The tasks students helped with on the video related to the course they were studying for. Creative and media students helped in producing the video and construction students helped make the set. Kano said in interview for the Sunday Times that he wanted to "inspire people, but not in a way that's patronising and preachy".
2010–13: Method to the Maadness and mixtapes
Kano's fourth album, Method to the Maadness, was released on 30 August 2010 and charted in the UK Albums Chart at number 45, making it the rapper's fourth successive album to appear in the Top 50. The lead single, "Upside" (featuring Michelle Breeze), was released on 23 August 2010.
Kano provides vocals on the third Gorillaz studio album, Plastic Beach. He collaborates with fellow British rapper Bashy and the National Orchestra for Arabic Music on the track "White Flag". After the album's release Kano was interviewed by The Guardian and he discussed how he enjoyed working with Bashy for the first time and how Damon Albarn and himself were both on the same page musically.
In September, Kano announced a four-track collaborative EP with the producer Mikey J. The EP was entitled Not for the A List because Kano did not want anything to stand in his way when it came to making the music. Part of the EP was to make one track a week and to release it to a DJ to play on radio, ensuring it was a different DJ each week over a timeline of four weeks. The first track was "Random Antics"' the second track, "Alien", and featured Maxsta, the first label signing by the SBTV founder Jamal Edwards. The third week was a track titled "E.T", featuring Wiley, Scorcher and Wretch 32. The fourth track, "House of Pain", featuring Ghetts, was delayed due to the length being 7 and a half minutes. The DJ had to get permission from his boss to play it. It is expected Kano is using the EP to build anticipation for his fifth studio album, to be released in 2012.
On 13 November 2011, Kano announced via Twitter that he would release a mixtape some time that month entitled Girls Over Guns which, he said, would appeal more to the ladies than men.
On 1 January 2012, Kano released a mixtape called Jack Bauer 2.4 as the follow up mixtape to the 2010 edition.
2014–present: Made in the Manor
On 26 April 2014, Kano released a music video via SB.TV for "Flow of the Year' featuring JME. The following year came his single "Hail" in March 2015 and its B-side "New Banger" released via Noisey in April 2015.
Kano's fifth album Made in the Manor (2016), features all the aforementioned tracks as well as his popular 2015 freestyle "Garage Skank". Promotion for the album began with the single "3 Wheel-Ups" featuring Wiley and Giggs. The song premiered on MistaJam's BBC Radio 1Xtra show on 7 January 2016. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number 126 and the UK R&B Chart at number 16.
The album entered the UK Albums Chart at number 8, becoming Kano's highest-charting album since London Town (2007).
Awards and achievements
He was voted Best Newcomer award in 2004 at the Urban Music Awards and then in 2005, Kano was nominated for 4 MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards, winning the award for Best Newcomer. He also won an award at the first Channel U "Best of British" Awards. On New Year's Eve 2005, Kano was announced as one of "London's Heroes of 2005" by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. He was also nominated for a BRIT Award for Best Urban Act in January 2006. In 2016 Kano's album Made in the Manor was nominated for the Mercury Music Award. Made in the Manor also won 'Best Album' in the 2016 MOBO awards.
- Home Sweet Home (2005)
- London Town (2007)
- 140 Grime Street (2008)
- Method to the Maadness (2010)
- Made in the Manor (2016)
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