The Grime scene has always been pretty insulated, especially from an American perspective; the Atlantic Ocean has made sure that non-European listeners will always be hopelessly stuck a few months behind the genre’s restless, London-bred epicentre. Hell, even the once seminal Run The Road compilation, which served as a sort of beginner’s guide, is now laughably out of date, making it quite difficult to get a finger on the genre’s pulse from across the pond.
Despite all that, Kano’s name is easily recognizable to a Grime neophyte, even if he’s shadowed by giants like Dizzee Rascal or The Streets – and that’s a real feat given the massive volume of artists in the scene. He’s not necessarily known for his album work, but his singles – the banging Ps & Qs specifically – have kept his name in the spotlight. It’s not easy to achieve that sort of crossover multinational appeal, especially on the back of little more than a few great songs, so he has to be doing something right. But like most Grime artists, his style, sound and swagger wears worryingly thin when stretched to a full 45 minutes. Method To The Maadness has a lot of these problems, but Kano smartly keeps them at bay by including a slew of A-list guests, Hot Chip, Wiley and Vybz Kartel among them.
Naturally Method To The Maadness opens with its Grimiest song. 2 Left Topic Of Destruction encompasses everything the adolescent genre is about; wobbly synth, Dubstep drums, and chintzy, schoolyard production. It also has Kano doing his best croaky Lil Wayne impression, which pops up surprisingly regularly throughout the record. He tumbles out cracked, leathery lines like “I need to get some sleep/ I can’t get no sleep”; they sound earnest, like an emo-rap take on A Milli. It doesn’t really ‘work’ per ce, but it is jarring in its intended way.
Luckily, going forward, the album starts to open up out of its London roots and into something a little harder to classify. Upside sounds like an English take on a Public Enemy song, displacing all the electronic blips for big, pulpy runs of brass. Slaves is remarkably spacious and slow for Grime, and puts a significant amount of space between the crunching drum machines and the skyscraping chorus. Naturally the Wiley guest spot on Get Wild is an immediate highlight, and the always-awesome Boys Noize delivers a dense, rave-tastic production.
It’s not to say the album doesn’t pack a lot of fluff too; Bassment especially, which just sounds like Kano rapping over a watered down Dubstep instrumental. And despite their best efforts, Hot Chip can’t elevate All + All Together out of a four-minute experiment in blandness. But regardless, Method To The Maadness is at least trying harder than most Grime efforts these days, and isn’t too far off from recapturing the rampant creativity and ferocity that used to define the genre.
But the biggest problem here is Kano himself. He’s simply not that winning of a rapper or a personality to make an album that only proclaims his name to be interesting, which makes it just as well he’s stuffed the record with those guests. Even on his older tracks, the violent, hyperactive production completely outweighed his lyricism or flow – and it will be difficult changing that this far into his career. But none of that prevents Method To The Maadness from being one of the most fully formed Grime albums this side of Dizzee and, when the state ofthe scene is taken into consideration, that’s an accomplishment of sorts.