When Kano burst from the grime scene to the mainstream with his 2005 debut Home Sweet Home, it seemed like a bona-fide star had thrust his way onto the stage. He was young and charismatic, and tracks like Reload It and the seminal P’s & Q’s showcased his ability to run vocals over a multitude of styles. He was the perfect next step from Dizzee. But he wasn't able to retain his position at the top. Guest spots on various albums, including Chase & Status' More Than Alot and the latest Gorillaz effort, continue to keep his name floating around; but it's with Method to the Maadness, his fourth studio album, that he needs to really push his way back as a solo artist.
The album opens excellently, with a defiant Kano going in hard over the Boys Noize-produced 2 Left: Topic of Discussion, declaring he's happy to play the role of the villain for his critics. Get Wild features Major Lazer-style production, its fuzzy bassline riding perfectly around a trio of vocalists as Kano is joined by grime godfather Wiley and Aidonia. This strong start continues with ASBOs and bus-riding rude boys being pulled apart on MAAD, the East Ham MC doing what he does best: puffing his chest out and getting angry over a guitar-laced beat.
The lure of fame in the X Factor and WAGs generation is dealt with on the Chase & Status-produced Spaceship, this album’s standout track. The typically catchy vibrations of the duo's dubstep basslines build up brilliantly under the vocals yet remain relatively understated, allowing Kano to take centre stage. But standards do drop: Hot Chip fans may love their contributions to All + All Together and Lady Killer, but both end up sounding generic and when Ghetts rides the beat on the latter, it simply doesn't work. Similarly, Bassment plods along without grabbing the attention and Dark Days and Slaves feel like tracks intentionally included to entice those who wouldn't normally listen to Kano.
Kano hasn't reached the peaks of his debut album here, but when it works …Maadness works very well indeed. He's a talented rapper, and his lyrics are on point for the vast majority of the record; but let's hope he works exclusively to his strengths next time instead of trying to be experimental for the sake of it.
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