So a big envelope from the wonderful Toast PR falls onto my doormat. Ooooo, I think, this looks fat (or should I say phatt); I wonder if it's a wad of notes or a big bag of payola. But no! It's even better than that. It's a cassette. A fucking cassette. At first I thought I'd disappeared up a wormhole and come out into a parallel universe where the Walkman is still king. Until I checked it. Kano, 140 Grime Street. Thank you very many you lovely Toasties.
Now for too many of us middle class liberally types who are OK with US rap, because it's over there, but draw the line at grime, because it's over here and our tabloids say it's all about the crime, miss out on what is the definitive sound of the UK urban scene. It's not just black kids either. There is a whole scene of young folk looking for a definitive way to express whatever frustrations and anger they have with the way their world, both immediate and wider, is being run for them. For me it was punk, for my nephew it's grime. At the top of this scene, musical movement, whatever you want to call it is Kano, Wiley and Dizzee.
Now the UK music industry is notoriously racist, almost institutionally so. I'm sure that some over-fed label MD will splutter their disagreement, pointing out that Leona Lewis and Lemarr are both black. Yeah, they are; but their careers are controlled by stupid white men who's only connection to the street is through the rubber of the tyres of their BMWs. The music they make says nothing to me about our world or the times in which we live. They sound and act like the stage school stooges they are, and like Gareth Gates before them, they will be used up, wrung out and flushed away once the public moves on. Kano, Wiley and Dizzee will still be here.
Because they live in the moment, they control their destinies, they write music that says something to all of us, particularly to the unemployed, angry and exploited youth, the ranks of which will soon be expanding as once again the politicians let the moneymen fuck up our society without ever holding them to account. Now back to Kano's new tape.
Now I'm sure this will be coming out in CD form but whoever thought of sending it out as a mixtape should get a medal. Talk about old skool.
Kicking off with the title track you're straight into the first single, Hustler. Here's the excellent video.
I'm not sure whether the topless girls will be too much for the morality brigade but the point of the song is that music represents an outlet for people deprived of most standard forms of employment and enrichment, aside of drugs and prostitution. Following on from Hustler there's a roll call of blinding tunes - Hunting We Will Go, These MCs and Gangsta - the flow keeps going. Kano lays himself out there and the results are stunning.
Considering that his last album, London Town, was a genre defining moment it is both surprising and invigorating that he tops that with 140 Grime Street. It's time that the majority of our music journalists stopped referring to the US and their assorted X factorappers as somehow the start and end of urban music. Finally the UK can point to our home-grown talent as being far more relevant to our experience and society. On top of that Kano is releasing his new album through his own label, BPM Recordings, a move that should be applauded as so much of the UK music industry has no idea how to market a music that is recognised around the world as being a vibrant expression of the UK in 2008. If you want to know what's happening up East don't ask a major label exec based in London, ask a kid living in Buenos Aires or Toronto.
Now go out and buy the record.