Tonight at 12.05am, Ewen Spencer’s documentary Brandy & Coke, in association with Somesuch & Co, premieres on Channel 4. To mark the occasion, we’re celebrating all things UK garage. From the label-obsessed style to the music, you can gear up for the premiere with all our garage coverage here.
Kano appears towards the end of Brandy & Coke, our feature length doc on UK garage. More fan-boy in the underage rave than active MC, he recalls watching his brother go out to the dances aged 14, spitting on the pavement as garage rose and fell around him. With NASTY (Natural Artistic Sounds Touching You) Crew and their legendary show on Deju Vu, he turned the corner into grime, using garage’s infrastructure of 16-bar instrumental breaks and pirate radio to their own, fierce narrative devices. Emerging as one of grime’s flashiest and most charismatic forces, he released a series of major label records and starred in Channel 4’s Top Boy, but in the middle of recording his new record, he took time out to chat about his 14-year-old self and the music of his youth.
Dazed Digital: What are your feelings towards UK garage?
Kano: Yeah it was a big thing for me. When I got the age when I was old enough to go out, raving on a Saturday, UK garage was the thing that we were into and I kind of missed the jungle days, I was a bit young for that. So I never really went to the rumbles and all those jungle dances. I used to listen to it at home but when I was old enough, garage was the thing. It’s a big part of my growing up and turning from 15-18, those years of raving were massive for me and obviously I got into emceeing and looked up to a lot of those MCs that were stars to me. With Heartless Crew and all of those guys, I was very inspired by it. It’s probably been, along with dancehall and hip hop, the biggest influence in my career.
DD: What are you top five garage tunes for the break?
Kano: I think my favourite garage tune ever was “Gabriel”. Big tune, so soulful, I could just hear that when it’s sunny, if someone puts that on when I’m on holiday and I bring my iPod. That’s the one, that’s my favourite garage tune. Then, I think these are the tunes that don’t get the love. They do get the love but we used to love them more because there was little vocal and we could mc a lot. One I actually bought was "Destiny", "Hyper Funk" and "Melody", that had a good bass line. One more: I love "Try Me Out".
DD: Your emceeing is not so much rock up at the party and think up some rhymes to make people ask for a re-wind, it’s story telling, putting forth an idea about yourself as a person.
Kano: To be fair I think So Solid and Pay As U Go started. When those MCs stared to come through we saw a real transition from the MC Creeds to the Asha Ds and the Wileys, it was really different. So although we were in love with the music, vocally we clearly wanted to do our own thing. A lot of the garage records used to have a singer on it, and then a drop with an 8-bar space, and we used to buy all those records so we could squeeze a little verse into those eight bars where there was no vocal, to the point where everybody knew where it was going to come, so it would be vocal, vocal, vocal, then boom instrumental. That’s where we used to rap. So when we got older we started making our own beats without the vocal and we could completely go back to back.
DD In terms of what did you love about the scene, what was it that really grabbed you at that age about garage specifically?
Kano: Just the vibe. There was something about the vibe that it created. Even now when you hear garage it gives you a nice vibe. Maybe that’s something to do with nostalgia now when we hear it out, but also if you listen, it’s fun music that you can party to. It’s one of those things, it was all about going out and that’s the music we wanted to hear when we went out. We were into all sorts of different kinds of music but in that environment when you’re 15, 16, 17, all you’re thinking about is going out – and it’s what the girls are into as well. That was the big thing at the time, it was the music that girls love, girls sing along to. It was just that. On the MC front, they just had the power. They were powerful, they could control the whole rave, could say whatever they wanted to say, people singing along to their lyrics and they might not have been famous nationwide, but they were superstars where we came from.
DD: What did you think about the style and the dressing of the time?
Kano: It was definitely for me. I used to want to go out dressed mad expensive like Gucci loafers, the Moschino and all that. I used to look at all the maddest clothes like Versace and Mosh and Iceberg and I can definitely remember going to my garage raves wearing my shirt – the difference is people used to dress smarter and used to really make an effort. Then when we started evolving into grime, it was more tracksuits. You could have never worn a tracksuit to a garage rave – it was all about shoes and dressing well.
DD: I remember your lines about being in the Face magazines and fur coats.
Kano: It never really was something I focussed on too much – those early days we did photo shoots, and people tried to push us and put us in stuff and it was all cool, I like clothes. But when we used to go to radio and raves it was more uniform, everyone had a pair of Nikes on or Adidas, Akademiks tracksuit, hood, baseball cap and that was that.
Tonight at 12.05am, Some Such and Co director Ewen Spencer’s documentary Brandy & Coke premieres on Channel 4.