You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been. Overused cliché or not; this statement holds insurmountable weight in regards to Rap music. Think not? Think again. You have the batch of your new school artists that swear they are bringing something new to the table but it’s all been said and done before.
The being heavily draped in chains a la Mr. T game, talk to Slick Rick. Selling millions on your debut album as a teenager is peace but LL Cool J did that when the money wasn’t even there like that. Your record is number one on the video countdown show? Try being number one when the networks weren’t even featuring any people of color.
Look no further than the throwback gear everyone is wearing now. We say all of that to say this: the past will always dictate Hip-Hop’s future. And there is no better time than to pay tribute to the old school than on this twentieth anniversary of 1988.
1988 was an incredible time for Hip-Hop. As fans, we were spoiled with classic after classic. In the last eleven months, AllHipHop.com revisited these seminal albums with our Class Of ’88 series. We took a track by track look at It Takes A Nation Of Millions, Paid In Full, Strictly Business, Tougher Than Leather, Power, Lyte As A Rock, In Control Volume 1, took it to the R&B side with Guy and had KRS-ONE speak on those times socially.
But with those impeccable LPs came impeccable MC’s. At the top you had Big Daddy Kane and Rakim. The Brooklyn Knight of rappers had the flair and overlapping rhyme schemes that begot Jay-Z. Representing The Nation Of The Gods And The Earths, Rakim singlehandedly changed way Hip-Hop rapped and gave birth to Nas.
To say who the better rapper through their entire careers was would be futile, as both artists had too many triumphs to count. But as a closer to the Class Of ’88 series, we asked all those involved with the aforementioned classic albums who was iller during 1988, Kane or Rakim. We could have asked any jamoke but those that were asked were rocking alongside both of them, so who better to give an on site analysis? Yeah we know; you don’t have thank us.
Chuck D.: Rakim and KRS-ONE changed the game of rhyme, with their phrasing. They introduced a style of rhyme that changed Rap forever. Ra’ is truly the God rapper and KRS-ONE is the most feared rapper of all time. The most skilled rapper of all time, I think is Big Daddy Kane. That’s only because Big Daddy Kane could deliver on speeds. Its one thing to rap fast but it’s another thing is to rap on something fast and Kane can do it fast, slow, powerful and dance. Sh*t, he can do it all [laughs].
With choosing Rakim or Big Daddy Kane, there is a difference between being evolutionary and being revolutionary. Rakim is revolutionary; he invented something that wasn’t there before, same thing with KRS-ONE. Kane took what was there and did it better, same thing with Jay-Z. Big Daddy Kane and Jay-Z are evolutionary. Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, KRS-ONE; they are revolutionary. They did something that wasn’t done before.
Ice T.: I’m going to say this because I’m really split. Kane and I became really close friends out the gate and I never really heard anyone rap like Kane as fast as he did. But when I made my first record all I heard in Harlem was Rakim. Every car was playing Rakim and I looked at these n****s like who the f*** is Eric B.? So damn, s**t, I think actually Rakim.
I think Rakim to me but at the same I think Kane’s power came later. I think Rakim was earlier. I think they have an equal amount of power, I just think to me coming from L.A. and walking through Harlem making an album, and hearing his record blasting I was hearing “I came in the door” out of every single car, it blew my mind. Like okay, I can dig it.
DMC: Big Daddy Kane; the reason why I say Big Daddy Kane was Rakim had good records. But everything that Kane said was dope. He was a more of a reflection of everyone while Rakim was the God. Rakim was the great know it all that you climb the mountain you go speak to get specific knowledge. Kane was sexy. Kane was street. Kane was funny. Kane was Rap. Rakim was the epitome.
Rakim was The Bible but Daddy Kane was the word; the gospel. Rakim was specific, while Daddy Kane was everything. Lyrically Kane was better. Rakim wasn’t funny. I got to give it to Daddy Kane man. But you know who’s better than both of them? Chuck D., he had the voice and the flows!
MC Lyte: It’s all according to how you look at it in terms lyrical content they were both monsters. However in ‘88 a new regime had come in and Kane was part of that new regime. If you are talking about that year it would be Kane. If you are talking about overall, I don’t think a decision can made between the two.
Both are grand at what they do however I remember being moved in the crowd, and clapping to this with Rakim much earlier. If you are going to talk about that moment in time, Kane was killing it. He was more real to me than anything else.
Erick Sermon: I’m biased on that. Throughout all my interviews I’ve always said the reason why I rap is because of Rakim. I can’t answer that question even though Kane immaculately dope on the microphone but Rakim is why I rap.
Parrish Smith: That’s impossible to choose [laughs]. I’m not one of these artists to yell out any name on the phone. I’m looking at “Make Them Clap To This,” and then I go to Kane with “Raw;” that’s hard! That’s not an easy one.
We always went on before Big Daddy Kane, we was in Joe Louis Arena it was sold out. We thought one night we could get him and we can have Kane perform us. We asked Kane what he thought and he said “Ya’ll think ya’ll ready, okay go ahead.” So Kane went on before us.
He came out in a hot tub bubble bath and Scoob and Scrap was on their game not missing a step. He made it very hard for us to get down. So we went after Kane and after the show and we were like we are going back to performing before you. That’s the type of presence Kane had on the stage.
But with Rakim song wise, it was a different ball game. So performance wise you got to bring KRS in. Stage wise KRS gets the trophy. With the lyrics between Kane and Rakim it’s a dead heat. With the stage performance KRS ONE no questions asked.
Marley Marl: Those are my two favorite rappers for that point. I think back then Kane had the edge. Rakim was dope but since I worked with both of them I could tell that Kane had a little edge on him; content wise and everything. Rakim was sick representing for the Gods, with his lyrical content was deep; a little deeper than the average rapper.
But if you weren’t into that; you would get lost. If you weren’t a 5 Percenter – I know what he was talking about because I grew up with 5 Percenters, I already knew the lingo he was using; he was preaching Islam. But if you weren’t into it, you could miss it. He had the ill flow. But Kane changed Rap, Rakim didn’t.
“Raw” changed Rap. Before “Raw” there were no records going that fast. That’s what made Rakim want to rhyme fast! I know I pulled the switch on the golden era to make Rap change. I know what song caused the change.
“Raw” was that song, after that Rap changed. Everybody wanted to go fast, started rhyming fast, started putting noises in their records. It’s just that Juice Crew had it hard; Juice Crew had too many haters because they were so great. So they not going to give the Juice Crew their full props like they supposed to. For sure Kane changed Rap.
Eric B.: Rakim is my business partner and Kane is like my brother. What I’m saying is at the end of the day, Kane had a different style than Rakim. It’s like saying who you prefer, Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. Both are dangerous at what they do. I never compared them because it was two different avenues that they were going down.
Kane would come with an aggressive strong then smooth operator style. Rakim was strong and aggressive but coming with a street vibe and teaching of Islam, even though Kane threw stuff in there too but it went over people’s heads. It was two different styles.
Until people started talking about it, I never thought about it. We were never in direct competition until people started talking. Then they were saying Kane made a record, then they were saying Rakim made a record. I’m like what record was that? I’m still trying to figure out where I was at? A lot of people say that Kane and Rakim had a beef but the truth is my father used to be at Kane’s house and hang out with his father. I would go to Queens and pass by Kane’s house. My brother was a road manager for Kane too.
If they had battled or been in a cipher together I think people would have still been split in that decision. People that like Kane like Kane. People that like Rakim like Rakim and they not going to change.
It would have been a stalemate. Both of them are dangerous at any time. It’s not like I’m trying to avoid the question, but what I feel from being around both of these dudes are dangerous at any time with a microphone in their hand. I’ve seen Kane rap off the top of the head and keep going and Rakim just has rhymes he forgot about. The original “My Melody” was dam near an hour long. We had to cut it down because it so long.
Big Daddy Kane: Um well what would be the best way to put it? It would be like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson in his prime. I think it would be the type where you are dealing with that one professional that is great at one thing he does versus a technician who knows many different styles and has a whole lot of different skills.
Craig G.: I would only say Kane because Kane touched different areas. As far as straight spitting, I got to give it to Rakim because “Lyrics Of Fury.” But Kane was smart enough to know that rapping wasn’t the only thing as far as being an MC.
As far as charisma and swagger and what have you so I have to give it to Kane in that regard. But me being the type of rapper I am, I would say Rakim for the pure force of spitting. But Kane had that too, but Kane can take you somewhere else as far as different moods. That’s a well rounded MC to me.
Teddy Riley: Rakim is the most skillful rapper of all time. I think that back then he was the best. It was Rakim.
Ice Cube: Dam back in 1988, I would have to put my money on Kane. I feel Rakim was the God MC, but I felt Kane was at that time was more like a battleship as far as an MC. Man that’s a hard one, but I’m going to have to give it to Kane. Kane’s metaphors to me were very clever. Rakim’s metaphors were very visual. Rakim’s rhymes made you feel like you going across the universe. Like you were riding a camel across the desert, and you see a prism in the middle of the desert. It had this wide scope.
Big Daddy Kane was more like you didn’t want to battle him. Both of them are great emcees but it’s hard to compare. It’s like comparing Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali; both of them were great for what they were there for. Big Daddy Kane’s stuff felt like jumping out of a Cadillac, his thing had a more pimp flair to it. I have to give it to Kane.
D-Nice: Dam. I’m so biased with it because Kane is my man. I don’t know man. I’m rolling with Kane. I’m a Rakim fan but Ra’ made you think but Kane made you feel like oh sh*t did he just say that? Paid In Full was crazy, but how many songs did Ra’ rhyme on with that album [laughs]?
Kane was the entire package. I’m sure a lot of people went with Ra’ but I just looked at it differently because in 1988 I sang along with Kane. I was with Kane when he wrote the lyrics to “Ain’t No Half Stepping” on the train to Brooklyn; his stage presence too. I’m going by everything; Kane on the stage was a beast! He wasn’t afraid to dance and it was still hard Hip-Hop. I’m rolling with Kane.
KRS-ONE: Kane because Rakim has laid down some of the greatest lyrics of our day but Kane is an MC’s MC. You’re not going to get Rakim dropping the mic and picking it up and tipping his hat to audience. You’re not going to get Scoob and Scrap. That’s the one thing with Kane is where I do that Reggae sh*t, Kane will do that dancing sh*t. So when I think of an MC, I think of The Furious Five. I don’t think just of your rhymes, I think of your whole showmanship. Your outfit, what you put on, how you delivered your show, how you interact with your DJ.
Real skill and real talent as an MC, there has to be historical moments where you had to show your skill and there have to be witnesses to your skill. Now I have witnessed Kane’s skill. Now Rakim is my n**** from day one, I’ll take a bullet for that n**** no doubt, that’s my dude. But Kane I’ve watched rip sh*t, I’ve watched Rakim rip sh*t too; I’ve even joined him in ripping of sh*t but I watched Kane. Like here’s a good example, Rakim is a humble man. Kane is humble like KRS is humble [laughing].
Like if told Kane yo, your sh*t sucked last night and we have a show tonight, Kane is going to try to take me out! That’s what I respect that sh*t, warrior to warrior. He don’t give a f***. Like with Rakim, I don’t see him in that category. I don’t see him trying to upstage a n****. Rakim is more about f*** this rhyme sh*t, I’m going to put a bullet in you.
So I would say Kane, but I think the list is biased. One thing I was pitching to B.E.T. the other day was that they should have an unlistible list. There should be a list of people that could never be on a list. This gives some air to the whole idea to who was the best in a certain era. In ’88 KRS-ONE was clearly the best MC, straight up and down I’m not f***ing with it, that’s it. But if you leave me out, I would be on the unlistable list in 88, why do I say that because in ’88 I was battling and nobody else in that category was battling.
I was battling six, seven MC’s at the same time, and ripping shows and putting my albums out and had the Stop The Violence movement rocking at the same time. So I don’t put myself in that category. So when I enter that equation, the standards go up because you can’t call yourself an MC and have a wack show. You might be a dope MC, or a dope rapper on a certain level but when you put people like KRS in the equation, Kane in the equation, you put Busta in the equation, you know even people like DMC in to be honest with you over RUN; when you put them in the equation the sh*t changes dramatically!
You heard from the greats. Now Give us your opinion