Greatest UK Hip Hop Album Of All Time


Ever since day one hip hop has had an obsession with lists. Back in the day it was who was the best in the Bronx, then the best in New York, best on the East Coast, best on the West Coast until we get to today where no hip hop discussion between fans can end before the ‘Top 5 dead or alive’ topic has been debated to death. This need to rank every artist, every track and every album doesn’t exist in any other genre of music. Rock fans debate whether current bands could their own with the greats but that’s where it ends. They agree to disagree and that’s it life on goes on. But in hip hop the artist is determined to prove they are the ‘best rapper alive’ and the fan is determined to prove them right.

Personally I try and steer clear of this debate, because let’s be honest you are never going to agree. If all a particular fan knows is Lil Wayne, then trying to convince him that Rakim was/is streets ahead is an impossible task. People are suborn.

And yes I am aware of the irony of the last paragraph and the fact that this blog is about to name what I believe to be the greatest hip hop album to come out of the UK. But the reason I’m doing this is because I think that this particular album is so underrated that it’s practically criminal, and as a nation we don’t take enough pride in our rap scene. So my aim here is to partly show that we have some talent over here and that it can go up against the best of New York or California and more than hold its own.

So here we go. In my view the best hip hop album to ever come from these shores is ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Kano. Underrated, under promoted, and underappreciated but undoubtedly a classic.

The album was realised back in June of 2005, and despite its quality it was hardly a summer smash, charting at number 36. 6 singles emerged from the album again none of them really taking radio by storm. (This says a lot more about radio than it does the album) I will now explain why I believe this to a truly classic record and why it’s so underrated.   

What actually makes an album a classic is always a bit of a contentious subject but for me, in general it doesn’t have any ‘skipable’ tracks, it has a song for every mood, the artist makes you ‘buy’ into them as a person with their songs or the concept of the album, and finally the production and the sound has to be on point, and this final point is so relevant in hip hop its untrue. So many good rappers have spent a good portion of their career being undermined by their inability to pick decent beats, and work with the right people. If any of you are familiar with Nas you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

So to the record in question; ‘Home Sweet Home.’ Let’s try and break it down. I don’t hear any ‘skipable’ tracks on this album. What I mean by that is that when listening to an album most of the time even on good records there will be at least a couple of tracks that you will skip. But on a classic like this every track is necessary, every track adds the finished album. Each track flows into the next, adding to the story and adds to the project.

On the album there are loads of different types of songs, each one gives you something a little bit different. ‘Ps and Qs’ makes you feel like you can take on the world. ‘Nite Nite’ makes you think about that girl you’re with or that girl you just broke up from. And then you have the tracks that give you an insight into the artist, and the one on this album that really does that is ‘Sometimes.’ Here we get Kano doubting himself (not a common trait in hip hop) everyday doubts and everyday worries that affect us all. This means we can empathise, because we can all relate to the track. Everyone reading this blog knows what self-doubt feels like.

And finally we come to production. Now this is an area where a lot of UK rap albums fall down. As a nation we have a knack of being able to produce great song writers and lyricists but hip hop producers seem to be a struggle. But that isn’t a problem here, the beats are totally spot on. They don’t sound like they are trying to be grime and they don’t sound like they are from New York. They are what they are, original. ‘I Don’t Know’ samples Back Sabbath for crying out loud!  The beats for ‘Nite Nite’ and ‘Ps and Qs’ are also personal favourites.  

The only problem with this album is that unless you are a hip hop or grime fan you don’t know it exists. The mainstream missed it. And they missed it for one reason; the album was before its time. UK hip hop was still getting its foot in the mainstream door in 05, so as a result mainstream radio missed it, and the album or its singles never got the push they deserved. Today is a different story; UK hip hop is all over the radio with the likes of Professor Green, Tinie Temph and others. If this album came out in 2013 it would be huge. ‘Nite Nite’ is made for radio, the perfect rap single. Kano would be a star.

So there we have it, my number 1 UK rap album of all time. An album that was praised by the likes of Chuck D upon release and an album that slipped totally under the radar. But under the radar it will be no more. The best hip hop album to ever come out of this fine nation, ‘Home Sweet Home.’


 

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