British Grime artist and Top Boy actor Kano has urged regional film and music talent to retain their artistic integrity and build an authentic body of work if they want career longevity.
Speaking during the a panel ‘An Audience With Kano’ at On.Dxb, an initiative by Dubai Media City and Dubai Film & TV Commission, Kano discussed the resurrection of gritty London drama Top Boy on Netflix, his sixth album Hoodies All Summer, and widespread critical acclaim following his sold-out Royal Albert Hall show.
“I’m always looking to the next thing and guilty of not taking in what’s happened – it’s always forward, forward, forward,” Kano said. “I’m trying to be the best me and always want to do something different, perhaps that’s something that hasn’t been done in my area of music or doing something simple better. I’m never aiming for a number or thinking about selling more records. All that is good, but what drives me is the push to be better. It’s integrity that’s important.
“Even in terms of the Royal Albert Hall show, I was always looking forward to that show in terms of what I want to do, what I want to represent. When it was done, I was looking for ways we could have improved it. Even great ideas can get lost in execution. I am fussy and take a lot of time over things because I want it to stand the test of time - I want to look back in 20 years and stand by my work,” said Kano.
Discussing Hoodies All Summer and its relevance to contemporary life for youth growing up in London and cities across the UK, Kano explained: “Everybody wants success, but I just want to be able to do what I want to do. If that works, cool. When you gain success for work you believe in and stand by, that’s a great place to be. It’s integrity. I’m a real guy. The whole fame thing doesn’t appeal to me. Initially when I set out to make this record, I didn’t know what it was going to be about. It wasn’t until I reversed the lens and started ‘looking out’ that topics revealed themselves and I realised I had a lot to speak about. I’m an artist and a young black man who is from where I am from. I get it. I sympathise with people. If I wasn’t doing this, I would be there so I’m not trying to make political statements; I just talk about the things I care about.”
Turning to acting and the giant steps it took to tackle the role of brooding antihero Sully in Top Boy, Kano admitted that it was not a skill that came easily. “Sully is a complex character. In previous seasons Sully was the straight street violence, but it became more of a challenge for me as the character developed. I wasn’t going to disrespect the craft. I don’t care much for the acting business, but I respect the craft, so I got an acting coach.”
Kano also referred to Drake’s impact on Top Boy after the hip hop star played a major role in pitching a new season of the show to Netflix. “He (Drake) was a fan of the show and realised there wasn’t another one. He started tweeting about it. To me, the show was done, it wasn’t coming back. He then reached out and was quite integral in acquiring the Netflix deal.”