Grime MC Kano Impresses At The Lemmy

by Sam Watson

Photo Credit: Fabric/Danny Seaton

Kano at The Lemon Grove was something that I was expecting to enjoy. I very much did enjoy it, but in a different way to how I originally thought I would. Set times were released as I was having dinner, saying the headliner was going to be on at 9:15 - about three hours earlier than I had expected. Support was starting at 8:30 so I had to rush my carbonara and get out. As I got to The Lemmy there was a DJ set up on the side of the stage, with the rest of the area being filled with the instruments for a full live band set up. Again, not what I thought was going to be happening.

To warm the crowd up we had Little Simz, who I’m still undecided about. I actually recognised a fair few of her songs because they have been used on various BBC promo clips and the like, the most notable being Wings, which was used on the iPhone advert that was played at the halfway break of every game in the Euros. The audience also knew a lot of her stuff; Dead Body went off with about 50% of people singing along. She has a collection of good songs and is the perfect support act in that sense, but the issues start when she begins to sing. She is vocally very weak, and she seems to know this. This is perhaps one of the few instances I think it would be acceptable for a pre-recorded set to be sung along to. Simz also pulled up almost every song she played - a rewind isn’t uncommon in grime, but is normally saved for when a DJ drops a track that has a massive reaction from the crowd. They then ‘pull it back’ and start it from the beginning again, to get another reaction. Simz use of rewinds, however, started to get a bit annoying as it was used far too much.

As the DJ set up is being prepared, a few hard hitting grime numbers come on over the PA. D Double E’s Bluku! Bluku! really got the energy levels high, and then as the lights went down the band came on and we were introduced to the grime forefather Kano. He opened with New Banger which got the crowd hyped and rightly so - he isn’t lying, Kano certainly has a new banger. Kano is predominantly a grime MC, pretty much everything he has released up to this album could be classed as grime. However, this new record is a lot more inclusive, featuring a lot of chilled out hip hop-like beats with some really smooth flows (see T-shirt Weather In The Manor to hear what I’m talking about) and these came across incredibly well live with a backing band. A highlight for me was This Is England, the brass section sounded epic and you could tell by the way that he spat his bars that they were filled with long-lasting meaning.

Exeter was the opening night of the Made In The Manor tour, which finds Kano touring countrywide the album of the same name in a string of sold out tour dates. He has played a few festivals over the summer, but I think that this is probably the first time he would have played some of the lower order album tracks in front of a crowd. The way he would pause and take a moment after some of the songs, having a look around and flashing a rye smile, gave the impression that he was loving it. Based on the reaction of the crowd I can’t blame him - they knew every word and were clearly enjoying themselves; with a few students distributed thinly between a predominantly older crowd. I was genuinely surprised that the male/female split was about even, as most grime crowds are exclusively male – maybe this is why Kano is so popular, as he clearly appeals to both sexes more than other MCs.

The midpoint of his set was marked by Ps and QS, the track that initially launched KA onto the scene, and is one of the most iconic old school grime records going. After this he chilled out a bit before starting some passionate rapping about growing up, which then led into a big build up started by Ghetto Kyote - arguably the most recognizable grime record ever and a privilege to see live. Aside from these tracks, the set didn’t feature anything that wasn’t on the album. In my opinion, a few older tracks would have been nice, just for my own enjoyment. Ending the night with Three Wheel Ups was a good way to go out and certainly deserved at least one rewind, but perhaps Simz had used up all of the reloads allowed for that evening.

I was expecting a grime club night at The Lemmy. What I got was a Kano gig, meaning I could watch Bake Off an hour late instead of hungover in the morning as I had planned. In his own words, “the ruler is back” - and I hope he stays for a while.