Chantelle Fiddy catches up with the MOBO Award winning east Londoner, Kano, ahead of his headline Re:Definition performance at Hackney Empire on 7 July, 2011. Check out what he had to say ahead of the big event…
With three studio albums, a world tour with Gorillaz and a Channel4 drama series among his many achievements, East Ham boy Kane Robinson’s done good. In a rare London performance under his Kano moniker, the MC is set to share his musical evolution for one night only as he comes home to headline Re:Definition at Hackney Empire on 7 July.
What’s your first memory of the area?
My family has lived and moved all around east London but I always remember East Ham High Street. It was always bustling and while loads of things, including the shops, change over the years, that kind of atmosphere in a place doesn’t.
How much has East Ham changed then since you were a kid?
At weekends my friends and me were always at Black Pitch in Stratford. It’s now a proper 5-a-side place. We called it Black Pitch cause it was just dark. But as kids you do what you have to do to stay entertained. I doubt you can get pizza for £1 now either – most days we’d be at the Southern Fried Chicken shop next to the barbers, Cut Above the Rest.
What first sparked your interest in music?
My older brother Lee, aka DJ Chopper, had a lot to do with it. There was always music playing in the house. My mum, who’s a schoolteacher, is into all sorts – there was a lot of reggae. Me and my friends all listened to garage and just thought we could be like those guys.
What was the first CD you ever bought?
Because of my brother it would have been vinyl and something we could share at home. I think it was “Hype Funk”, a garage track by Reach & Spin, and I got it from Paul’s Music in Whitechapel. I doubt that’s there anymore!
Where did you first get up on stage?
Again, it was my brother who got me started. I remember when he booked me and Demon to warm up for an MC called Precious at RN1 Club. We took it so seriously, getting T-shirts printed up with our names on and that. We were so excited. That was the first time I performed “Boys Love Girls”. I was probably about 15 and too young to even be in there.
What was the grime community like back then?
People work together a lot more nowadays, when it comes to making songs and actually collaborating, but pirate radio, clashing, a lot of the fundamentals have changed cos of the internet and general progression. Grime, well, it’s more of a culture now – you can tell a “grime” kid from what they’re wearing, the attitude, whereas it used to be more about the actual sound. You can be grime now without making grime.
Where do you go to be inspired?
After I’d finished filming Top Boy, a Channel 4 drama I’m starring in with Ashley Walters, I took a trip to LA. That gave me a lot of inspiration and I penned a song on the flight back. I’m just working on the new album now, and some other potential collaborations. I’ve got full control of my music so I feel like I’m in a good place.
If you look back at all the great music and art that’s come out of east London, what do you think is so inspiring about this area?
I don’t really know, but if you look at other parts of London they tend to have a rich area and then the not-no-nice bits, but east London isn’t really like that. It all just is what it is. It feels like more of a community, and we’re good when it comes to making something out of nothing. Look at how much football talent has come from east too! I found out just the other day that Idris Elba lived down the road from where I grew up too.
How did you get involved with Urban Development?
I’ve always known about them as most acts from this world have been through their doors, performed at an event or been on a panel at some point over the last decade. I was meant to go to the Manchester United v Manchester City game back in April but performed at UD’s Industry Takeover instead. And I’m glad I did. As soon as I saw Ghetts at the door I felt hyped, like back in the old days, and the audience was sick, knew all the words. As an artist, you can’t ask for much more than that! I’ve just heard they’ve got a new studio too. For anyone up and coming, these kinds of opportunities mean everything.
What are you most looking forward to at Re:Definition?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Scrufizzer actually. I got him in recently to do a remix of my track ‘Crazy’ and he was really talented, but I’ve never seen him live. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do the premiere of that tune on the night too! That’s why Re:Definition is such an important platform for new and established acts who don’t often get to be in a show environment together. Plus, you’ve got something a bit more creative, a bit different, like a gig with a storyline…
What have you been listening to recently, old and new?
I came across another new MC called Pepstar online who I really like – Urban Development tipped him for 2011 too – and I got in touch with him, telling him I was into his stuff. We’ve recorded something together, so keep an ear out for that down the line.
This article was originally published online by UD in 2011