The King of UK Rap title is often debated. However, no one comes closer to the crown than Kano. East London royalty alongside many of his peers, Kano has seen an illustrious music career across two decades; banking Gold-certified records, early top 40 hits, Mercury Prize nominations and a string of classics. His grime origins do not define him, progressively showing ambition to push British hip hop to the next level with every album. While many UK rappers discographies come with clutter lost within the lack of industry foundation, Kano’s is as clean as they come; six studio albums released between 2005 and 2019.
This article will rank Kano’s six albums from worst to best, reflecting on each project and their position in Kano’s career.
6. Method to the Maadness (2010)
The closest to a misstep in Kano’s career. Released at a time where grime artists were finding their route into the mainstream, Method to the Maadness fully embraced the electronic, dubstep and jungle trends that were dominating UK rap at the time. From front to back, Method to the Maadness is all up in your face with its production choices, from tracks like “Get Wild” to “Crazy”. Over a decade on, not a single song is discussed in Kano conversations, let alone the album. The entire record is painfully dated, stuck in a time capsule that doesn’t capture an elite era of UK music or of Kano’s artistry. The least you can say for Method to the Maadness is that it is creative, and isn’t a total train-wreck.
Best tracks: “Get Wild”, “Spaceship”, “Jenga”
5. London Town (2007)
As the sophomore effort, London Town had a lot to live up to. London Town is far from a bad release, but does struggle to find its focus. It opens strong with tracks like “The Product” and title track, carrying the same energy his debut offered. Moody cuts “Sleep Tight” and “Over and Over” are unspoken gems, “This is the Girl” remains Kano’s biggest chart hit to date, and hidden track “Grime MC” is one of the hardest grime songs to date. Where London Town gets lost is in its various quests to experiment that do not come together cohesively. The country-strumming “Fightin’ the Nation”, Gorillaz-produced “Feel Free” and Kate Nash collab “Me & My Microphone” stand out like sore thumbs.
Kano would go on to experiment more successfully on future releases, as well as figuring out how to deliver a tight-knight effort. Nevertheless, London Town remains an enjoyable offering.
Best tracks: “Grime MC”, “The Product”, “London Town”, “Buss It Up”, “Sleep Tight”, “This is the Girl”
4. Made in the Manor (2016)
After a six-year hiatus, Kano signed with Parlophone and embarked on the second chapter of his career. Made in the Manor showed exactly where Kano’s vision was heading, mastering the album format in a time where emerging UK rappers could learn from for their own debuts. An ode to local identity, Made in the Manor is often explosive (“Hail”, “New Banger”) but equally solemn with tracks like “A Roadman’s Hymn” and “Endz”. Cinematic cuts like “This is England” and “T-Shirt Weather in the Manor” are among Kano’s all-time best, not to mention the modern classic “3 Wheel-Ups”.
Though an elite record, a few moments do get lost in the similarity of the album sound (“Strangers”, “Seashells in the East”, “Little Sis”). These tracks could be cut and not missed, but still contribute to the album experience. Make no misinterpretation with this being fourth; Made in the Manor remains an elite Kano album, topped only marginally by the remaining records in this list.
Best tracks: “T-Shirt Weather in the Manor”, “3 Wheel-Ups”, “This is England”, “Hail”, “Deep Blues”, “A Roadman’s Hymn”
3. 140 Grime St (2008)
As mentioned, Kano’s grime roots have never defined his albums. The lukewarm reception to London Town saw him split ways with 679 Recordings and take it back to basics. Enter 140 Grime St, Kano’s only through and through grime album, thus edging Made in the Manor by the thinnest thread. It is entirely produced by Mikey J, with extra contributions from Wiley, Skepta and DaVinChe. It maintained the address theme in his album titles, but is unapologetically grime for 16 tracks straight. Defined by its consistent horns production, there is never a dull moment on 140 Grime St. Kano sounds perfectly at home over the beats, granting first-grade collabs in “Hunting We Will Go”, “Anywhere We Go” and “These MC’s”, all while rapping at one of his peaks. With no filler in sight, 140 Grime St is nothing but consistent, hungry energy.
It remains unavailable on all streaming platforms and digital outlets for unknown reasons. Which is why 140 Grime St is unable to earn the flowers it deserves in modern conversations. A grime emcee at heart, it is satisfying to have at least one full grime album by Kano.
Best tracks: “Hunting We Will Go”, “I Like It”, “Anywhere We Go”, “Hustler”, “These MC’s”, “Hustler”, “Don’t Come Around Here”
2. Home Sweet Home (2005)
Kano was one of the three chosen ones to make a true mark with their debut (alongside Dizzee Rascal and Wiley). Home Sweet Home covers all bases as an introduction, barely pandering to commercial ploys. While London Town struggled to gel its range in sound, Home Sweet Home successfully weaves through well-aged rap rock (“Typical Me”, “Ghetto Kid”), iconic grime (“P’s and Q’s”, “Mic Check 1-2”, “Signs in Life”), sweetboy anthems (“Brown Eyes”) and traditional hip hop (“Sometimes”, “9 to 5”). It was an early display of experimentation (production credits include Mike Skinner, Fraser T Smith and even Diplo), coupled with measured lyricism and an ear for advanced songwriting. At the same time, the album feels raw and naturally curated that few UK debuts can claim.
Even with its one true miss (the bonus track “Boys Love Girls”, courtesy of its grating hook + beat), Home Sweet Home is a consistent lasting moment. It is London bottled up in sixty minutes, a record that legitimately sounds like it took Kano’s whole life to create. Its classic status cannot be questioned, Home Sweet Home is etched in UK hip hop forever.
Best tracks: “P’s and Q’s”, “Brown Eyes”, “Signs in Life”, “Mic Check 1-2”, “Typical Me”, “9 to 5”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Sometimes”
1. Hoodies All Summer (2019)
Attentive artists know what their best songs are. In Kano’s case, he is able to paint a picture in a mere ten tracks on his 2019 album, Hoodies All Summer. While many may argue Home Sweet Home is Kano’s best work, Hoodies All Summer is a culmination of his steady growth that saw him reach a new artistic peak. Perfection in production is unlocked by Blue May and Jodi Milliner, never missing a beat in matching Kano’s verses and tone of the record. Yet it is Kano’s content that really sells the album. Narratives of police brutality centre “Free Years Later” and “Bang Down Your Door”, spotlighting their abuse of power. Youth politics are explored on “Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil”, also home to some of Kano’s best verses to date (“Gotta speak mind of the bigger things / Shine is irrelevant, the grind is imperative / Gotta put pride over millions”).
Hoodies All Summer is A Tribe Called Quest’s “We the People” extended to forty minutes. From the cover to the tracks, it is an album that calls for unity. It is socially-conscious in the most subtle of ways, never treading into preachy territory. In a loose way, the ten tracks come together to represent an average day for young, black teens in London (“Fly out summers, take the kids out the ends / But you can’t take the ends out the kid”, he says on “Can’t Hold We Down”).
Hoodies All Summer sees the world through grown lens, a harsh reality that is a bitter pill to swallow, forming a compelling narrative to an imaginative soundtrack to anti-establishment. While not at classic status yet like Home Sweet Home, the title is most certainly loading. Without a single misstep in sight, this is Kano’s best album.
Best tracks: “Class of Deja”, “Got My Brandy, Got My Beats”, “Trouble”, “Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil”, “Free Years Later”, “Pan-Fried”, “Can’t Hold We Down”, “Teardrops”