When it comes to vintage hip hop, Big Daddy Kane is synonymous with conscious lyricism, breakneck beats and rhymes, and hip hop fashion; a pioneer of the art form. Sure, hip hop was exploding before ’88 but it wasn’t until the debut release of Long Live The Kane, that hip hop got even more aggressive and animated. All of a sudden, rap fans were dancing and identifying with hip hop in a different way.
Over a quarter of a century later, hip hop music still thrives for good or ill, and most fortunately so does it’s innovator, Big Daddy Kane. Whether one can relate to contemporary hip hop and r&b or not, one thing for sure is that the roots are deep and the art form is here to stay, that is as long as MCs stay true to it.
I spoke with Kane regarding his new project Las Supper, his legendary status as an MC, and just how hard it is being the Kane.
Once you hit the scene, it seemed as if fans were responding differently to rap music.
“By the mid-eighties, normal hip hop fans which, you know, weren’t really B-Boys, got into hip hop. I think that’s what really made break dancing and stuff decline because now you got cats in clubs doing all those flips, spins, and sliding on their knees but it was part of a different kind of hip hop dance. There was always dancing in hip hop, it just changed from the B-Boy style dance to what you would call, I guess, Club dancing. Then you had artists like Whoudini, Heavy D and Salt & Pepa who had dancers on stage”, explains Kane.
Before the debut of Long Live The Kane, how did you make your way into the rap game?
What happened was an older cousin of mine named, Murdock, started rapping. He was that older cousin I looked up to, so as he was doing it, I started doing it. You know, Just try to hang with him. He was rhyming with two other guys so when I started writing I started off trying to write battle rhymes so I could beat the other two dudes battling, and I’d be down with him.
How do you define your lyrical technique?
Rapid flow. You had aggressive emcees like Run DMC, L.L. Cool J, but it was more aggression, like a whole bunch of words into one line. Around like ‘86, Rakim and KRS One came out but they had slower flows. The game was starting to change and become very lyrical. It became rapid fire, like, ‘Ok, now somebody is saying some hot stuff but damn, they’re going top speed. And after he finish the verse, he’s jumping back with these two dudes where he’s doing dance moves’. It became where cats had to step their game up lyrically and in their stage show.
Many aren’t able to pull that off in terms of live performance. Some artist resort to lip-syncing.
For some artists, that’s what they were taught. You know, that was pretty much the thing to do for pop stars. For instance, I don’t know why Don Cornelius (Soul Train) did that but that was his thing to have everybody lip sync. When I did it, I couldn’t take it the first time, so the second time I did Soul Train, what I did was go back into the studio and recorded my vocals dry and recorded myself in the studio telling the crowd to put their hands in the air and say ‘Ho’ and all of that. That’s how I went to Soul Train. I was lip syncing but it still sounded live, because my voice was dry and I was doing crowd participation so the audience thought it was live.
You’re doing some tour dates with Slick Rick. As an MC, what makes Rick so legendary?
Storytelling. He really changed the game with his accent and art of storytelling. When Rick came it was like he had this unique British voice that no one had ever heard. He had that accent that was incredible and his stories were just so funny. It was like he was writing a fold-up nursery book. I mean, his way of telling stories was just hilarious, you know?
Care to talk about your new project, Las Supper?
Absolutely. It’s basically myself, Show Tyme, and a band from New York called the Lifted Crew, and we came together to form Las Supper. We called the album Back To The Future ‘cause that’s what we are trying to do with the sound. Everything is live instrumentation and everything’s got that vintage ‘60s/’70s feel of soul music combined with ‘80s Hip Hop.
It’s a completely live project?
What we’re trying to do is go back to vintage soul, you know? It doesn’t involve no auto tuners, it doesn’t involve no keyboards, it doesn’t involve no drum machines. We’re trying to go back to vintage soul, and lyrically, vintage hip hop -merge the two but do it in a way that it works as a group. You know, it’s like one unit as opposed to it’s an r&b song ‘let’s get a rapper to put a verse over it’.
With an emphasis on performing vintage soul and funk, would you say contemporary r&b and hip hop has taken a wrong turn?
At this point in time, hip hop and r&b are pretty much one. Artists like Niki Minaj and Lil’ Wayne, what they’re doing is pretty much singing. The categories at the time are almost like one in a sense.
Most legendary MCs started in the underground paving the way for future generations of MCs. Now many seem to start with a silver spoon in their mouths, getting radio play and bypassing the authenticity of the underground, aiming for the fame while the producers get the props.
Nothing wrong with trying to get the fame. Make some money, y’know, I think that’s beautiful- ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s just a matter if you have respect for the art. That’s all it’s about. I mean, you can make a hit record but at the same time, if you’re an artist and you got a song out and all the people are saying ‘you hear that new joint from such and such? Aw, man that shit is crazy. Kanye did the beat’. Then all you’re doing is making Kanye big. You got to get yourself big because you didn’t say nothing. You didn’t do nothing to make them embrace you, and nothing for your career. If that producer wants to work with someone else instead, man, your career might be over.
Any plans for the 25th anniversary of Long Live The Kane and what track would you say defines that album?
Nah…I didn’t have no…(laughs) to be honest with you I didn’t realize until two weeks ago when somebody mentioned it to me. I was like, ‘Word?’ ‘Oh damn it is’ but yeah, one track that defines Long Live Kane I would have to say is, “Set It Off”.
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