Kano’s ‘Hoodies All Summer’ Is A Triumphant Call For Black Unity

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Olivia Rose


Like a solar eclipse, Kano has once again descended upon us mere mortals, keeping us protected under the cover of his established and growing legend. Making a ‘comeback’ as it were with 2016 opus Made In The Manor, after years of musical discovery with peaks and valleys, new album Hoodies All Summer sees the East London grime don going from strength to strength. The scene knew something special was coming after the surprise drop of “Trouble” with its accompanying video of the year, a harrowing take on knife crime and violence that was supplemented by a modern grime classic in “Class Of Deja”. Though only running a 39-minute length and with production throughout by Blue May and Jody Milliner, Hoodies All Summer turns Kano’s focus outward (after the self-assessment of Made In The Manor) to an oft-forgotten community in the UK: the youth, a community blamed for so much but afforded so little.

Kano’s gritty picture of London, drawn out by his previous work, is given new layers here, placing the focus on the youngers who are consumed by the ravenous and unforgiving four walls of the concrete jungle known as LDN. And though summer is the weather, we’re swapping t-shirts for hoodies in the manor this time round for extra protection. Opening track “Free Years Later” is a beautiful take on the internal conflict of making money doing what you love and leaving your day ones behind, losing a bit of yourself on the way. Follow-up “Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil” places our protagonist right at the heart of the warzone of which he paints a vivid picture, while the late, great activist Darcus Howe’s passage at the beginning of “Trouble” is made more powerful by its placing on the album. Kano never reaches preacher status on Hoodies; instead, he comes as a spokesperson speaking to the very real issues facing the youth today, offering advice like an uncle led astray by that lifestyle in his day, longing for his younger relative to heed his word. Musically wrapping them in cotton wool, K-A takes their hand and guides them through the landmines of life, hoping they can step out of the ends safely without fear of losing themselves or their lives.

The Kojo Funds-assisted “Pan-Fried”, with steel pan sequences harkening back to the Caribbean, perfectly describes the likelihood of a madness on the roads at the peak of summer; the musical definition of the phrase “the block is hot”. This underlying tension fuels the album, as Kano continues to make sense of his position in the game at large. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as he is celebratory of the resilience of the black community while finding time to pay tribute. His Jamaican roots are exhibited on “Can’t Hold We Down” featuring Popcaan, while shouting out his and his peers’ ability to make it out of their circumstances with themselves intact, in the wider context of disenfranchisement and disillusionment that this white world serves us on a daily.

“Got My Brandy, Got My Beats” sees Kano come to terms with losing, in his words, “his best friend,” the ethereal vocals of Lil Silva compounding the solemnity of a breakup, further balancing out the at times heavy subject matter. “Class Of Deja”, the grime masterclass with D Double E and Ghetts, retains its instant classic status and, as a lyrical exercise for certified icons in this grime ting, continues to amaze. Album closer “SYM (Suck Your Mum)” employs a choir that needs to follow every black youth accosted by police, every black graduate applying for jobs and rejected in favour of their less qualified white counterparts, and every black person under pressure in this struggle called life. Crystallising the album’s prominent messages, it caps off what has been an exhilarant ride with a call of action to the black community: unity. The one thing that eludes us but is integral to our survival. Ringing as true as church bells on a Sunday morning, the choir’s “If we don’t hold each other down we won’t make it” passage is as powerful as everything that has preceded it, placing the emphasis on us building the blocks of our defence in a world that wasn’t made for us. We really are all we have in a lot of ways, and with unity, the possibilities for our liberation from every literal and figurative chain imaginable are boundless.

Part hellacious, part sombre, fully endearing, Hoodies All Summer is easily one of the best releases of the year—a moving piece of art, another gem in the arsenal of an icon and a telling commentary on our times. With impeccable storytelling and a creative mind ageing like wine, Kano does as only one of the GOATs can: leng it down.

Posted on September 03, 2019