Big Daddy Kane: The Smoothest Operator

Before Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. came into prominence, there was Big Daddy Kane. A product of Brooklyn, Kane and others like him marked the era of the super emcee. However, Kane, a dark-skinned brother, was decidedly different that most emcees before and after him. Kane was able to astound males with his lyrical ferocity, yet effortlessly woe the ladies with a suave ‘hood elegance comprised of truck jewelry, silk shirts other accessories.

But Kane was more than a rhyme-spewing ladies man. It was common for him to rap about the state of affairs in the community, injustice, racial pride and other topics of depth and substance. With Long Live the Kane(1987), It’s a Big Daddy Thing (1989), A Taste of Chocolate (1990), Kane reigned superior and, when America began its infatuation with gangster rap, he maintained a superior standard of lyricism.

On the day of Jam Master Jay’s death (October 31, 2003), spoke to Big Daddy Kane and the rap scholar would eventually go stage to tell the rabid crowd inside New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom that “something happened” to JMJ. In the windfall after Jay’s death, the conversation was lost, but is relevant once again as Kane is honored by VH1 and its Hip-Hop Honors show. The Honors show, taped inside of the Hammerstein, proved that all of Big Daddy Kane’s charisma and skills have been preserved over the course time. Now, Kane we all know you inspired a generation, but who inspired you to rhyme?

Big Daddy Kane: Once I heard Grand Master Caz and like that Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy B battle in ’82, that really influenced me to like start writing because they were spittin’ lyrics. At that time, [before recorded Rap songs,] there was like Randy C, Disco Richie. What you heard on records wasn’t like what they were spittin,’ they were spittin’ some real lyrics. I said, “I like this,” and then I really started writing. Then, I linked up with Biz in like ’84, I started doing it like for real, like believing something could really happen. The Juice Crew is arguably the greatest Rap crew ever. How’d you get down?

Big Daddy Kane: The Juice Crew existed way before I was down. Shante was the first member, I believe. Then, Shan came. Prior to my arrival there was Shante, Shan, Kool G Rap, Tragedy, Craig G, then Biz got down, then I got down, then I think Masta Ace got down. You and G were considered the best lyricists in the crew. How are you guys?

Big Daddy Kane: G is my man. Me and G used to be on the phone until two in the morning, looking forward to our stuff coming out. Biz was the one that introduced me to Marley, but it was really G Rap. Biz was looked at as the star of the Juice Crew, but G Rap was definitely the lyricist. Like when it was time to battle, if it was gonna be on, they had G Rap. And G was the one telling Marley, “Yo, this n***a Kane is hot. He’s got it.” And that really made Marley tell me to come over, vibe and do some stuff with him. That was from G basically giving him the okay. Me and G used to be on the corner at two in the morning spittin’ lyrics back and forth. I’d be on the phone like, “Check this [rhyme] out, check this out.” He’d call me back two days later like “Okay, check this out.” That’s tight that you kept each other on point.

Big Daddy Kane: G used to write rhymes so damn long, when we did “The Symphony,” the tape ran off. He rapped until the end of the beat, the tape ran out. And he got mad that Marley wanted to cut his rhyme. He got so made that he changed his rhyme [to the recorded version]. He didn’t want to change his rhyme. How does it feel to come up in the Golden Era of Rap, where some feel lyricists were they finest?

Big Daddy Kane: As always in the business, people are looking for “that artist.” Back then, “that artist” was whoever was nicest. It was hard as hell to get a deal if you couldn’t spit. Cats that were nice on the mic were the once that got deals. If you came in there with some old lame lyrics, you could forget about it. It was real competitive back then. What is your fondest memory?

Big Daddy Kane: My best memories were from my “Chocolate City” tour in 1990. I had Queen Latifah, Digital Underground, 3rd Bass, MC Lyte, and I think that’s it. Digital Underground declared war on us. They passed out flyers and they were running around shooting us with water guns, water balloons, the nine-millimeter looking water guns. And we had serious war during the day. Latifah used to play dirty. They would put scorching hot water in their guns. This is when Tupac used to dance with Digital. Latifah’s crew when out [during a concert] and wet Tupac and Money B all up – right on stage as they were performing. How did Tupac and Biggie’s deaths affect Hip-Hop?

Big Daddy Kane: How it is affected, I really don’t know. I don’t really see too much of a change. I thought it would. Here you have two great stars that are no longer with us over nonsense and a lack of love in this Hip-Hop thing. Also, my thing is, if you don’t do it, don’t promote it. If Just Ice makes a million and one thug records, so be it. Duke did bids and you heard about how he dealt with cats at labels. Everything he talked about, he had been through. But, if you ain’t been through it, why talk about it? Don’t put that in nobody else’s head either. How do you see the game these days?

Big Daddy Kane: The labels don’t want a star, a natural-born talent. They want a fly-by-night that will go platinum, sell triple platinum. And, they can fall off and move on. If they do have a really talented artist, they know they are going to have to pay that artist eventually. They don’t want to give that money up. They would rather him have a major-selling album where they can recoup like crazy. What do you think about the state of Hip-Hop right now?

Big Daddy Kane: I don’t necessarily care about what’s going on with Hip-Hop right now. But as far as Rap has grown, I like how it’s so international. Because of the commercial success of Rap music, I don’t think that the Hip-Hop artist is able to get the same play on the radio. It’s a lot of artists that represent Hip-Hop and people should have to wait until Friday and Saturday night to hear it. Rap, I don’t see no new trends. You took a lot of criticism in the past for being commercial, but the same things you were getting flack for, they are doing.

Big Daddy Kane: Maybe I was [too commercial at the time]. Maybe society wasn’t ready for that at that time. Maybe they are ready for it now, I don’t know. Aside from Jaz-O, you are credited for inspiring Jay-Z.

Big Daddy Kane: When Jay-Z used to open up shows for me, for about a year and a half, we tried to get Jay a deal. It just wasn’t happening. And he switched to that whole hustling rap, and he got himself a deal like that. Its nothing I would do, I would never switch up like that, especially because I don’t hustle. As far as Jay-Z goes, spittin’ raw lyrics wasn’t poppin’ for him so he went with what’s poppin’ now. He used to spit and he’s still nice. To you, what makes an ill lyricist.

Big Daddy Kane: Vocabulary and a real way of connecting words. How do you want to be remembered?

Big Daddy Kane: I would like to be remembered for my lyrics. That is how I would like to be remembered. There was strong rumor back in the day that you and Rakim had secret records dissing each other. His Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em supposedly had a song called “Candy Kane” that never made it. We also heard of a song called “Riff the Raff…”

Big Daddy Kane: You heard Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em [and it wasn’t on there]…[laughs] For an artist trying to get into the game today, what advice would you give them?

Big Daddy Kane: Be true to yourself. Artists need to be what they are and make people respect them for who they are – that’s if you do have talent. You have retired from making albums, but your skills are intact. Why?

Big Daddy Kane: I got tired of the business side. It’s a headache. Before I f**k around and be Suge Knight’s roommate, I’ma get my a** out of it. For a while, I saw what Biggie was doing and decided to do it again. Why?

Big Daddy Kane: I saw Biggie making it cool to spit that player s**t, making it cool to come on stage in gators [shoes] and s**t. Do you have any regrets in your career?

Big Daddy Kane: To protect the innocent, I’m not gonna mention no names, but…there is a certain R&B singer that I had the opportunity to hit that and I passed on it. This was a couple years ago. If I could change things, she could of got it. What do you want to do these days?

Big Daddy Kane: I want to go sit on a porch in Raleigh, North Carolina drinking some corn liquor talking to my boys about the good old days. I want to have some Al Green or Curtis Mayfield playing in the background. That’s what I want…

Related Stories