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Kano on making ‘great art’, knife crime and Drake’s Top Boy

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KanoImage copyright
Olivia Rose

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Kano has made music with Gorillaz, Craig David, Chase & Status and Wiley

Kano’s last album – the 2016 MOBO-winning Made in the Manor – was an introspective reflection on his journey, friends, family and rivals. This time around, with knife crime on the rise again, the east London MC is looking and speaking out.

The 34-year-old rapper / actor has a starring role in the returning crime drama Top Boy and his sixth LP Hoodies All Summer sees him combine music and drama to devastating effect.

The powerful music video for lead single Trouble begins with a sample of an old speech by the late activist Darcus Howe, blaming politicians and police for failing black communities and creating disharmony.

Kano picks up the threads of Howe’s argument in his eerily-jaunty opening verse: “Politician, hush don’t make a sound / Been oppressing us couple centuries now / And these gunshots never reach your town / It’s never on top when you leave your house.”

The whole piece then crashes down to a gospel prayer after the video’s young protagonist, Nate, is stabbed to death in broad daylight while playing with his friends. Now with more than 100 people having been fatally stabbed in the UK this year – the youngest, Jaden Moodie, was just 14 years old when he was killed in nearby Leyton – Kano wants his music to become “a direct conversation with people of the community that I’m from”.

“I do see what’s going on, things do trouble me and it’s natural that will creep into my music,” he says. “I don’t want to be a preachy person. It’s more like ‘I get it.’

“‘I know the wider world might not get it and I know the media might not get it when a kid gets stabbed and they throw him up on screen and act like he was a gang member when he wasn’t – trying to blame the parents and everyone but the system that’s been created.”

“I think great art poses questions and doesn’t necessarily give answers and solutions – that’s not what I’m trying to do,” he adds.

“I’m here to show you my perspective, as an older person. I’m not not silly enough to think someone’s going to stop violence.

“I’m just trying to humanise situations and represent voices that aren’t being represented.”

‘Endz minister’

Poet Caleb Femi has called Kano a musical spokesperson – a modern-day Bob Dylan or Tupac Shakur for Britain’s youth.

“In these times of uncertain political leadership, the endz have found their own prime minster in Kano” he writes.

“The endz minister?!” laughs Kano, whose real name is Kane Robinson. “I don’t want that job – it’s hard enough doing the jobs I do right now!”

After thanking Femi for those “kind words” he stresses the importance of his own being able to “stand the test of time.”

“This album in particular I just kept thinking about myself in the future, looking back and could I be proud of what I’ve done?

“If I had an album full of party tunes in a time like this, would that be acceptable for the artist that I believe I am?”

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Olivia Rose

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Before taking up music and acting, young Kano was a Chelsea and Norwich City youth footballer

That’s why, when other artists are drip-feeding a constant supply of “content”, Kano is happy to operate in his own time and on his own terms.

His new record, featuring Kojo Funds, Popcaan and Lil Silva, melds UK hip-hop, grime and garage influences, as well as jungle and dancehall – reflecting his Jamaican roots. The penultimate track, Class of Deja, sees him re-connect with Ghetts and D Double E – all members of the legendary N.A.S.T.Y Crew, who are widely considered pioneers of the grime scene in the early noughties.

Kano says he’s pleased to have “inspired a generation of young artists,” recalling how, before the scene exploded and started putting “dollar signs” in people’s eyes, artists like himself, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Lethal Bizzle were spitting bars on pirate radio simply “because we loved it”.

One of the young fans galvanised by those trailblazers was Stormzy – who made sure to thank Kano and his cohorts for “paving the way” during his historic Glastonbury headline performance in June.

Likewise, Kano acknowledges Stormzy in his album opener, Free Years Later. But rather than celebrate his success, he recalls how police allegedly kicked open his front door, after a neighbour mistook him for a burglar. As Kano notes, “as a young, successful black man in this country – in some people’s eyes you still don’t belong”.

Perhaps that’s why he’s determined to colonise spaces that aren’t a natural home for UK rap – with a five date-tour of lavish venues like the Royal Albert Hall and Manchester namesake the Albert Hall, in October.

“I don’t remember many moments of our kind of music in those buildings,” he observes.

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Netflix

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He returns as Sully in the third series of Top Boy

Before that, however, the star will reprise his debut acting role as Sully, a drug dealer on the fictional Hackney estate of Summerhouse, in Top Boy.

The cult series looked to have bitten the dust after being dropped by Channel 4 in 2014, only to be saved by high-profile fan and soon-to-be Netflix executive producer, Drake.

“He just let them know ‘I’m a big fan of the show. If there’s anything I could do to help get it back I would love to do so. I’m serious.’

“Shortly after that we sat down, me, him and [actor] Ash [Walters] and spoke about our ambitions.

“He was like ‘I don’t want to get involved in creating it. I want you guys to do what you do.'”

While there’s “definitely no cameo” from Drizzy there will be appearances from Dave – “a natural on camera” – and the “unstoppable” Little Simz.

How then do so many rappers – from Will Smith to Queen Latifah – move into acting so seamlessly?

“Hip-hop is the art of story-telling,” Kano muses, noting acting is “allowing yourself to become vulnerable”.

“Maybe there’s a confidence that it takes.”

Confidence and looking out, as well as looking in.

Hoodies All Summer by Kano is out on 30 August and Top Boy returns on 13 September.



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Cher Lloyd: ‘I’m not on the conveyor belt any more’

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“I’ve got nothing to hide any more,” says the 26-year-old

Cher Lloyd was a breath of fresh air when she stepped onto the X Factor stage nine years ago.

Striding around in ripped jeans, with a curl in her lip and eyebrows drawn in the shape of Sydney Harbour Bridge, her performance of Soulja Boy’s Turn My Swag On was nothing like the syrupy, safe singers the contest had become known for.

She went into the live shows as the bookies’ favourite, doubling down on her signature style by performing hits by Eminem and Run DMC amidst the endless parade of power ballads.

But it was a tough year – fellow contestants included Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction (and, er, Wagner). Lloyd eventually came fourth, as the public crowned painter-decorator Matt Cardle the overall winner.

Her profile hadn’t been helped by some unnecessarily vicious press, which branded the teenager a “chav” and a “gypsy”, and accused her of being a “hard-faced diva” who had “lashed out at a crew member and waved a spoon in her face”.

The criticism stung, says the singer. But, looking back, she understands that a show like the X Factor needed its heroes and villains to sustain a narrative.

“There’s a fine line between reality TV and creating artists,” says the star. “I realise that you need all your separate characters to play different roles. But you also have to remember that those people are all there for the same reason, the love of creating music.

“When you go on a show like that, it gives you such a fantastic platform, but it’s what you choose to do with that platform after that really counts.”

‘Too many cooks’

In Lloyd’s case, the story is complicated.

Simon Cowell, who called her “his favourite brat”, signed the singer to his SyCo record label and put her to work on a debut album. But you have to wonder what he was thinking when he chose Swagger Jagger – a bizarre mix of electro-house and the US folk ballad Oh My Darling, Clementine – as her debut single.

It entered the charts at number one, but one critic called it “the worst song in the history of pop”. Catastrophically, the song framed Lloyd as a novelty act, rather than the talented, charismatic singer the public had grown to know on TV.

“I think there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen at that time,” the singer says. “It’s difficult when you’ve got a lot of people with a lot of opinions on what you should sound like, even what you should look like, especially when you’re trying to find your identity yourself.

“I don’t think that you can pre-plan and guess what people want you to sound like. And I think there was a lot of that going on.”

Subsequent releases were better, but the damage had already been done. Her second single, With Ur Love, peaked at number four; The third, Want U Back, only got to 25.

In the US, however, it was a different matter. There, Lloyd was launched without the reality show baggage, and Swagger Jagger was consigned to the dustbin of history.

When Want U Back made the Top 20, Lloyd moved to the States and concentrated on her career there, focusing on her song-writing and taking more creative control over the recording process.

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Getty Images

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“My goal is to perform a lot more than I am at the moment,” says the singer

Now 26, and mother to an 18-month old girl, she’s back with a single called (appropriately enough) MIA. An expressive, playful R&B banger, it finally captures the singer’s unique blend of pop smarts and urban attitude.

“I feel like I’ve finally entered this new phase of my career where it’s totally authentic,” she says.

“When you enter the music industry at such a young age as I did, you haven’t found your feet as a young adult, let alone as an artist. So I think I had grow up and discover who I was and how I want to be heard.”

It seems to be working. Last year, Lloyd tested the waters with a “warm-up track” called None Of My Business – picking up 22 million streams on Spotify; and 32 million views on YouTube without any promotion.

MIA, meanwhile, launches the campaign for her upcoming third studio album, which has been four years in the making. The infectious song finds the singer abandoning her friends at a terrible house party and finding a better way to spend her night (hint: it’s with a boy).

So what’s her go-to excuse if she wants to escape a toxic Christmas do, or a crushingly boring dinner party?

“Well, I’ve got really, really good excuse now, because I’ve got a little girl,” laughs the singer.

“But I’ve always been quite an honest person – sometimes to a fault – so I probably wouldn’t have an issue saying, ‘This is rubbish. I’ve got better things to do’.”

It’s an philosophy she’s applying to her career these days, too.

“I’ve got nothing to hide any more. My music is 100% me,” she says.

“It’s been me going into sessions and me writing the songs. I’m not from a big machine, and I’m not stuck on the conveyor belt that I used to be on. I’ve jumped off, and that’s really scary. But at the same time, super empowering.”

Cher Lloyd’s single, MIA, is out now. An album will follow in 2020.

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Strictly Come Dancing 2019 crowns its winners

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Former Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher, who was only drafted into Strictly Come Dancing as a last-minute replacement, has been voted this year’s winner.

Kelvin and professional partner Oti Mabuse lifted this year’s glitterball trophy on BBC One on Saturday.

Although the pair came second on the judges’ scoring, they topped the public vote to win the show.

Kelvin and Oti triumphed over Karim Zeroual and Amy Dowden; and Emma Barton and Anton Du Beke.

The couples performed three dances in Saturday’s final – a judges’ pick dance, their own favourite routine from the series and a new showdance.

The winner was chosen by audience voting alone.

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Guy Levy/BBC

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The final saw all the contestants of the series reunite for one last dance

Kelvin said he was “absolutely speechless” after his win, adding: “I did not expect that, it’s been such a privilege to be here.”

In a post on Twitter, he said he was “humbled, elated, honoured”, adding: “Team #Floti did it!”

Kelvin was only called up after Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing injured his foot while recording the launch show – and the fellow TV star tweeted his congratulations:

Kelvin and Oti began their routines with a sensual rumba to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers for which they scored 39 points, followed by a perfect-score showdance to Shout by The Isley Brothers.

Judge Bruno Tonioli said their showdance was “almost like watching 13 weeks of all the best of Strictly Come Dancing condensed into one dance” and Oti’s sister and fellow judge Motsi Mabuse, who joined the panel this year, said: “I have no words…”

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Guy Levy/BBC

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‘You just put the show in showdance,’ said presenter Tess Daly

For their final dance, they revisited their samba to La Vida Es Un Carnaval by Celia Cruz, which they performed in week one.

Judge Shirley Ballas said to Kelvin: “Which part of that body doesn’t move? Fantastic, congratulations, I have no words, you’ve left me speechless.” He scored 39 for the second time of the night.

The Strictly win will give a huge boost to Kelvin, three years after he left his role as Andy Sugden in the long-running ITV soap, which he had played for two decades.

It is also the first time Oti has lifted the trophy. Speaking through tears, she said: “I’ve been on this show for five years and I have never ever met any celeb who gives his heart, his soul…

“If something is not working we stay in training and rehearse, not because he wanted to win but because he genuinely, genuinely loves dancing, and for me that is the best gift and the best ending to my year, so thank you.”

CBBC presenter Karim and his partner Amy performed the quickstep to Mr Pinstripe Suit – and were the only pair to get a perfect score for their first dance.

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Guy Levy/BBC

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Karim and Amy topped the judges’ leaderboard

Their showdance to A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman landed them 39 points and they scored a second perfect 40 for their jive to You Can’t Stop The Beat from Hairspray.

Some fans complained they were unable to vote online, with many saying they were being told they had reached their “maximum number of votes allowed” despite not having yet cast a vote.

The BBC reminded people having difficulties that they could vote by phone.

Emma and Anton opened with the Charleston to Thoroughly Modern Millie, which they first performed on musicals’ week.

Tonioli told Emma, who is best-known for playing Honey Mitchell in BBC show EastEnders, that she was his “favourite flapper ever”.

But the pair missed out on a perfect score by one point after judge Craig Revel Horwood pulled them up on a “sync issue”.

Their showdance to Let Yourself Go by Irving Berlin won them 38 points and their final dance – the Viennese waltz to the musical song Send In The Clowns – netted them 39.

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Guy Levy/BBC

Saturday night was the first time Anton had reached the final since the show’s first series in 2004.

After their final performance, Emma praised her dance partner: “Anton, the King of ballroom, thank you for allowing me to be your Queen for the last three months.”


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Emmerdale actress Sheila Mercier dies aged 100

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Sheila Mercier was part of the first ever episode of Emmerdale Farm

Emmerdale actress Sheila Mercier has died aged 100, ITV has confirmed.

The Hull-born star played Annie Sugden in the soap from its first episode in 1972 until 1994 and continued to make guest appearances up until 2009.

The British Soap Awards remembered Mercier – who was the sister of actor Brian Rix – as the “very definition of a matriarch”.

Claire King, who plays Kim Tate in Emmerdale, has described Mercier as the soap’s “beating heart”.

A spokeswoman for ITV confirmed Mercier’s death in a statement on Friday night.

She said: “It’s always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale’s success.

“Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built.”

Emmerdale actor, Mark Charnock, also paid tribute to Mercier.

Charnock, who plays Marlon Dingle, said: “The great Sheila Mercier has left us. What an iconic character Annie Sugden was.

“Used to watch it with my grandparents as a boy, so to meet her in later years was a thrill.”



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