Much like fellow grime originators Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, Kano released a highly acclaimed debut album during the genre's first wave circa 2003-2005, then proceeded to spend the following decades alternating between commercially oriented and underground-minded material, with varying results. While Kano has never had chart-topping hit singles like the other two, he's remained steadily popular, with all of his studio albums reaching the Top 50 of the U.K. albums chart, and he's stayed visible through frequent guest appearances (Gorillaz, Chase & Status, Lethal Bizzle) and acting roles. With 2016's Made in the Manor, his first album in six years, he refocused his energy and produced his most successful effort to date, becoming his first Top Ten-charting full-length and winning Best Album at the 2016 MOBO Awards. 2019's Hoodies All Summer is even sharper and more direct, casting off the populist tendencies of some of his earlier releases and emphasizing the emcee's aggressive, razor-sharp lyricism. Addressing problems such as inner-city violence, police brutality, and politicians' indifference to these issues, his words are frank and unsparing, yet he retains a sense of hope and levity throughout. While plenty of Kano's earlier songs were preoccupied with partying, here he references drinking and dancing as essential coping mechanisms for dealing with the ongoing struggle of city life, pledging to "pop ten bottles of escapism" on the Popcaan-featuring "Can't Hold We Down." Other songs such as "Trouble" and "SYM" (featuring the ludicrous taunt "suck your mother and die") are graced with choral vocals, gospel-tinged pianos, and even string arrangements, lending a strong sense of hope but never bogging things down with overwrought sentiments. The production, handled almost entirely by Blue May and Jodi Milliner, is consistently inventive, with jagged, abstract beat patterns befitting Kano's invigorated flows, occasionally breaking for relevant clips from news broadcasts and speeches. Longtime collaborators D Double E and Ghetts (who started out as members of the legendary N.A.S.T.Y. Crew along with Kano) show up and throw down on the brash, defiant "Class of Deja," filled with complex beats and crystalline melodies. Thoroughly inspired as well as creative, Hoodies All Summer is arguably the best work of Kano's career.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson