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

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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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Hitchhiker’s actor Stephen Moore dies aged 81

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Stephen Moore in the Student Prince

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Stephen Moore was described as the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

He also played Adrian Mole’s father on TV, and the dad to Harry Enfield’s grumpy teenager Kevin.

Hitchhiker’s producer and director Dirk Maggs said Moore was the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”.

He paid tribute to “an amazing, varied career”, adding that he was best known for the role of Marvin.

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Moore was the voice of Marvin for five series of Hitchhiker’s on radio, and the 1980s TV adaptation

The first series of Hitchhiker’s appeared on Radio 4 in 1978, and after being adapted for TV in the 1980s, it returned to the airwaves in 2003.

In it Marvin is a failed prototype robot with “genuine people personalities”, which has led him to struggle with severe depression.

Maggs said: “That was the thing that won the hearts of people, Marvin is the most miserable character but people seem to love him.

“It was Stephen’s voice that made that happen.”

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PA Media

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The prolific actor also played teenage diarist Adrian Mole’s father George on TV

Alongside the paranoid android, Moore had a successful career on stage, TV and in film.

He was Major Robert Steele in Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far.

He played teenage diarist Adrian Mole’s father George on TV, and the dad of Melody and Harmony Parker on children’s show The Queen’s Nose.

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He also played the dad of grumpy teenager Kevin in Harry Enfield sketches

Maggs said: “I’ll always remember the story of him getting locked in a mic cupboard in the Paris studio at the BBC, and they forgot he was in there and went out to lunch.

“He was an infinitely professional actor, would put up with any discomfort and waited to play his part.

“And then outside the working situation he was the most sweet, charming and affable of men.”

Actor Ben Barnes – who worked with Moore in a West End production of The History Boys – wrote on Twitter that “he was a sensitive, brilliant actor and a funny, lovely man”.



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Robert Forster: Jackie Brown star dies aged 78

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Actor Robert Forster, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, has died in Los Angeles aged 78.

The actor, born in Rochester, New York state, died on Friday of brain cancer.

It happened on the same day that El Camino, a film in which he had a role and which is based on the TV series Breaking Bad was broadcast on Netflix.

Forster also appeared in the Breaking Bad TV series as well as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks.

He was best known for his roles in the latter part of his career following his appearance in Jackie Brown.

  • Quentin Tarantino’s ‘brilliant’ Hollywood return

Starring alongside Samuel L Jackson, Pam Grier and Robert De Niro, his performance was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar.

The award eventually went to Robin Williams for his role in Good Will Hunting.

Forster is survived by his partner Denise Grayson. children Bobby, Elizabeth, Kate and Maeghen and four grandchildren.

Jackie Brown co-stars Samuel L Jackson and Pam Grier were among those to pay tribute.





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Angelina Jolie: Strong women are ‘shaped by men around them’

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Angelina Jolie, pictured at the London premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on Wednesday

Angelina Jolie has championed the role men can play in shaping the personalities of young girls.

The actress, who stars in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, also said female characters in films should not have to be portrayed as physically tough in order to be considered strong.

“I think that, so often, when a story’s told which says ‘this is a strong woman’, she has to beat the man, or she has to be like the man, or she has to somehow not need the man,” Jolie told journalists at the film’s launch.

Referring to her own character in the film and Princess Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, Jolie said: “We both very much need and love and learn from the men.

“And so I think that’s also an important message for young girls, to find their own power, but to respect and learn from the men around them.”

She added: “We have strong women, but the character that is wrong in the film and has to be taken out is also a woman. We show very diverse types of women, between our characters, but also we have extraordinary men in the film, and I really want to press that point.”

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, is released in the UK later this month and also stars Ed Skrein, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Disney

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Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer also star in the film, which is the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent

Fanning, who reprises her role of Princess Aurora in the film, echoed Jolie’s comments and said her character’s strength is not necessarily physical, unlike many princesses in children’s films.

“Aurora’s strength is her kindness, and she stays very true to herself, which is something I wanted to keep in the film. She is soft and feminine and wants to be a wife and have babies, and that’s a beautiful, strong thing that isn’t portrayed a lot on screen.

“A lot of the princesses are like ‘we’re gonna make her a strong princess! And make her tough, so we’re gonna make her fight!’ And it’s like, is that what being a strong woman means? Like, we just have to have a sword and have armour on and go fight? Aurora can do that in a different way, in a pink dress, and it’s beautiful that she keeps her softness and vulnerabilities.”

‘How to use that power’

Many of the female leads in action or children’s films focus on the character’s physical strength. Wonder Woman, for example, or Merida in the Disney’s 2012 film Brave. Indeed, one of Jolie’s previous roles was playing action hero Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

Explaining the premise of the Maleficent sequel, Fanning said: “Five years have passed in her life, and she’s now Queen of the Moors, and she has this new responsibility, and she’s trying to figure out who she is as a ruler and how to use that power.”

The movie’s plot sees Jolie’s Maleficent conflicted over her maternal feelings towards Aurora, and facing competition from the neighbouring Queen Ingrith (played by Michelle Pfeiffer).

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Disney

Queen Ingrith causes a rift between Maleficent and Aurora, when her son Prince Phillip proposes to the princess. Ingrith intends to use the marriage to divide humans and fairies, and it falls to Maleficent to stop the impending war.

Official reviews are still under embargo, but critics who attended early screenings of the film have been allowed to share their first impressions on Twitter.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is like Pirates of the Caribbean; there’s lots of convolution and contrivance, but has star power,” said Courtney Howard, who reviews films for Variety and Awards Circuit. “Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning are a holy trinity with bumpy arcs.”

Scott Menzel, the editor of We Live Entertainment, described it as “a visually spectacular sequel that proves once again that Angelina Jolie was born to play the title character. [It’s] a modern day fairytale where badass women take centre stage. The battle sequences are epic and the costumes are stunning.”

“Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer having a sass-off in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is every bit as good as you’d hope,” said Digital Spy. “The movie needs more of it, but it’s still a visually bold, fun and superior sequel.”

The film received its London premiere on Wednesday.

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PA Media

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Elle Fanning and Angelina Jolie both say physical strength are not what should make female characters strong

Fanning said: “I definitely felt a real responsibility to do the second film, the first film was the first film I’d ever done of that scale, and so many young kids saw the film, and especially young girls would come up to me, and they’d look at me as the character.

“So hearing that we’d be doing the sequel, I felt a responsibility to those girls for sure, and just to get to show Aurora as a young woman growing up. Obviously in the first film, I was 14 when I did that, and Aurora still has the qualities that she does of kindness, innocence and sweetness that she embodies, but it was so fun to come back.

“The three of us [Fanning, Jolie and Pfeiffer], we were there in the beginning, our relationships have changed and grown, I’m 21 now, so I wasn’t the kid on set anymore. I really felt accepted on set in a way. Especially with Michelle and Angelina, I felt like they included me as if I was one of their peers.”

Jolie says the films have come to reflect the life cycle of a woman – something that wasn’t necessarily the intention when the first movie was conceived.

“One of the interesting things is, without realising, we’ve hit the chapters of the growth of a woman,” she said. “Her birth, her christening, to being a little girl, a teenage girl, to now being a wife. And so in a way the chapters are following a few things, but one of them is how a woman grows and evolves.”

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