Since you’re reading this and you’re on the Mixtape Madness website, I’m guessing you’ve most definitely heard of Ghetts and Kano. Two of the biggest and longest established names in the industry, they are both considered leading pioneers of the grime scene, having been members of the N.A.S.T.Y Crew (Natural Artistic Sounds Touching You) back in the early 2000s, alongside artists including Jammer, D Double E, Footise and Monkey. Following considerable controversy, in which violence and disagreements over money between certain members of N.A.S.T.Y was speculated, Ghetts (then Ghetto) and Kano departed the Crew and commenced solo careers. Despite Ghetts being just twenty-seven years old and Kano one year his junior, the pair have established themselves as two of the top names in grime and the UK urban scene in general.
Both Ghetts and Kano are remarkably popular and will undoubtedly continue to flourish for as long as the foreseeable future allows. In the past, both MCs have accomplished commendable feats; Ghetts has been nominated for awards such as the BET Best UK Act and has collaborated with top artists including Devlin and Griminal. Kano has won and been nominated for various awards over the years, and starred in Channel 4 drama Top Boy last month, which has already had a second series confirmed. So with such successful solo careers behind both of them and a very promising future ahead, why should Ghetts and Kano bother to release a collaboration album in 2012?
I’m going to take you on a trip down memory lane, and explain why Ghetts and Kano work so well as a partnership. Building their relationship off the back of N.A.S.T.Y, Ghetts got involved with the promotion of Kano’s debut album Home Sweet Home in 2004 and 2005, where they toured with the likes of Nas, The Streets and Juelz Santana, and performed at the BBC Electric Proms and the MOBO Awards. This period of time is arguably when Ghetts started to get a name for himself as an individual artist, although many outside the underground scene viewed him as Kano’s hypeman, as Kano was the more commercially received artist, and Ghetts was regularly perceived as someone to get the audience started. Ghetts’s first mixtape, 2000 and Life, released in 2003, was filled with angry, brutal bars about life growing up on the streets of Plaistow and his stint in prison, but he admitted that touring with Kano gave him a different perspective of life in the UK. This change in Ghetts’s outlook led to his second mixtape, Ghetto Gospel (2007), which was far more mellow and heartfelt including a track dedicated to his mother. This release paved the way for Ghetts as an individual artist, and despite still collaborating with Kano on various tracks, he was starting to be regarded as his own man with his own individual style, flow and technique. Now Ghetts had established himself as a quality MC in his own right, he started to collaborate with Kano again. This time round, the artists were seen on a par; despite having different flows, delivery techniques and various subject matters, neither one is particularly superior to the other. This is why collaborations work so well between Ghetts and Kano. 2005’s Typical Me, from Kano’s debut album Home Sweet Home, was particularly successful; the unique backing track – a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a rock album – and the catchy hook, along with the skilful delivery of the deviously humorous lyrics made this track one of Ghetts and Kano’s renowned classics. The MCs bounce off each other perfectly on Ghetto Kid, from the same album. Hunting We Will Go (from the 2008 album 104 Grime Street) reflects grime in a more conventional way than the previously mentioned tracks, yet there is still an distinctiveness about it that only Ghetts and Kano could achieve. From the same album, Hustler showcases the duo’s talent for delivering with strength and authenticity, yet sounding effortless and natural. Last summer saw Kano’s release of Method to the Maadness where he collaborated with Ghetts on potential club track Lady Killer and they both killed the beat. Ghetts only appears at the end of the song for a few bars and this cheeky teaser leaves the listeners wanting to hear more.
The pair have indisputably released some quality material over the years. However, their most recent partnership and finale to Kano’s mixtape (produced by Mikey J) Not4TheAList, seven minute long track House of Pain, uploaded onto YouTube via Kano’s channel at the beginning of November, has met mixed reviews and evaluations from both longstanding and new fans. The general essence of the track lies in Ghetts and Kano’s frustration with the industry and their original fanbase. Kano drops a bar that caught my attention more so than the others: “Prostituting my style to benefit others? I wouldn’t mind if I was acknowledged, overrated, or even spudded, but f*ck it”. I can see why people are entering heated discussions about the track and the message it is portraying. Some fans are disappointed with the beat itself, complaining that they sound Americanised and that they are betraying traditional grime – where they started, and where, it seems some people think, they should stay put. But surely, since the artists feel betrayed by the industry anyway, they are permitted to commit this ‘betrayal’? I agree that the track sounds rather Americanised, especially with the (seemingly) Kanye West inspired, autotuned hook sang by Mikey J throughout the track, but perhaps this could be seen as a serious point being made, just with an ironic approach. The bars themselves express both the love and pain the artists have experienced at the hands of the music industry, with Kano questioning, “what they guilty of?” and Ghetts answering concisely: “f*cking up the whole damn rapping game”. Ghetts confesses, “I ain’t involved – and that’s three words I’m proud to say”. The hook that opens the song, “You abandoned me, […] just a vacancy, love don’t live here anymore”, sums up the general viewpoint of the game quite fairly for each artist involved, and maybe it could even represent grime itself, talking to the fans and even some fellow artists. Fans shouldn’t be angry with Ghetts and Kano for making House of Pain. I’m sure that many other artists feel the same, but are afraid of putting it out there.
On a less depressing note, thinking back to tracks the pair have previously teamed up on, I think that a collaboration album is long overdue and it is something that the UK music scene is waiting for and needs. Their earlier collaborations, think back to just after the N.A.S.T.Y days and beyond, showcase their lyrical talent and genuine chemistry on tracks. From the earlier collaborations back on Kano’s debut studio album Home Sweet Home (2005) to the more recent, there is sufficient evidence to predict that a collaboration album could possibly surpass excitement for any other release next year. A collaboration album between Ghetts and Kano will do wonders for not only themselves and their careers, but the grime scene on the whole. There is no doubt that a huge amount of people will be inclined to listen to it considering Kano’s growth in popularity and recognition thanks to Top Boy, but also thanks to House of Pain. When an artist releases a track tackling a hot subject such as the demise of the grime scene and its fanbase, people are going to want to know what sort of things they will be spitting about next. If they do decide to collaborate for a studio album in 2012, they couldn’t have picked a better time. Both artists are excellent as individuals, but as a pair, the passion and distinction seems to be enhanced ten-fold.
Kano – Not 4 The A List:
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Ghetts – 2000 and Life:
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Written by Georgina Chapman – g_chappers