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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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Coronavirus: The Archers to reflect global outbreak in May

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The Archers

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The Radio 4 soap centres on life in rural England

The BBC has revealed that its long-running BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers will have its first coronavirus-related storyline in early May.

Recording is typically done weeks in advance of broadcast, meaning writers have so far been unable to reflect the rapidly evolving pandemic on the show.

Producers said they wanted listeners to be able “to go to Ambridge in the usual way for as long as possible” .

Episodes from 4 May will reflect the coronavirus outbreak in Ambridge.

Producers said the soap will feature fewer interacting characters “sharing more of their private thoughts with the listener” – a reflection of the social distancing taking place across the UK.

Tough measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus across the UK, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and the closure of shops selling non-essential goods, were introduced last week.

The number of people who have died with the virus in the UK has reached 1,228 – an increase of 209 since Saturday.

Temporary changes to The Archers will see the show cut back to four episodes a week and a shorter weekend omnibus.

Voice actors will record the forthcoming episodes from their homes, rather than busy studios, in order to protect the numerous cast and crew.

Jeremy Howe, editor of The Archers – which has been running for 70 years – said the production team had “worked tirelessly” to keep the show on air and reflect the current global crisis.

He added: “Whilst coronavirus might be coming to Borsetshire, listeners can still expect The Archers to be an escape, and the residents to be bickering and as playful and witty as ever.

“The Archers will sound different and will be simpler, but I think keeping the show running and giving us all an opportunity to hear from beloved characters will be a treat loyal listeners will want and need.”



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Coronavirus: YouTube stars urge fans to stay at home

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A montage of YouTube stars

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KSI, DanTDM, Anastacia Kingsnorth and Caspar Lee appear in the video

More than 100 YouTube stars have recorded a video message urging their fans to “stay home” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The video is introduced by entertainer JJ Olatunji, known online as KSI, who has more than 21 million subscribers on the video clip platform.

“We’re here looking to spread awareness on the UK government’s current advice to stay at home,” he says.

The 20-minute video will be posted on YouTube at 16:00 BST.

As well as YouTube stars, footballer Rio Ferdinand, singer Jess Glynne, and Love Island narrator Iain Stirling are among well-known faces to appear.

The idea for the montage came from the Sidemen, a group of British video-makers, which KSI is part of.

Their joint channel has 7.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

The group says any advertising revenue earned from the video will be “donated to the NHS”.



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‘Memes should be archived in a museum’

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Internet memes are being widely circulated as people around the world are staying indoors.

Memes, a type of media that spreads and goes viral online, are often amusing but could they have broader cultural significance?

Should an image of a woman shouting at a cat or a hefty sheep be archived in a museum? Arran Rees from the University of Leeds thinks so.

Produced and edited: Ian Casey

Camera: James Wignall



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