Cited by many as one of the best lyricists of all time, Big Daddy Kane has shaped the careers of the likes of Jay-Z and is most likely your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper. It would be crazy to deny the impact that the Juice Crew member has had on hip hop.
For Kane’s legacy, tracks such as 'Ain’t No Half-Steppin' as well as his first two albums Long Live The Kane and It’s aBig Daddy Thing are considered classics. Despite his impressive back catalogue, one of the greatest things about the Bedford-Stuyvesant rapper is that he showed hip hop what it meant to truly be an artist, donning the best attire with an exceptional stage presence to match.
With fans scattered across all four corners of the globe, Big Daddy Kane returns to the UK in May to bless residents with his exquisite and iconic sound. We caught up with the hip hop legend to discuss the genre and scene as whole, as he reflects on the past and gives his opinion on the present.
We’re very excited to be having you come over to the UK in May. Are you looking forward to your European tour? What do you like most about coming to the UK?
Oh yeah absolutely, I can’t wait to get over there. I like the audience over there, the hip hop fan base take to the whole album in its entirety, not just the radio singles. So I get to perform different songs that I don’t normally do in America.
Do you feel you get that same vibe and energy performing as you did in the 80s and 90s?
Yeah absolutely, I don’t understand why it would feel different.
Your music is legendary throughout hip hop but what was your reaction to seeing your East Coast-centric sound transcend through to Europe from the 80s and 90s to now?
I mean, I thought it was a beautiful thing. The first time I ever came to the UK, someone asked me a bunch of personal questions that had me like, "how do you even know this?" because I’d never been there before. This was stuff I didn’t even talk about with my songs, but they knew this about my personal life? I was just amazed, like y’all really respect hip hop as a culture. That’s dope.
You created an image in hip hop that was really novel at the time, not only did you prove your lyricism but you helped push a very sexy side of rap into the mainstream. Was that an orchestrated idea, or was your lifestyle just that glamorous?
I mean (he laughs), yeah I’m selling records and we were doing tours. Dudes wanted to look like me and women wanted to be with me! So yeah, it was beautiful and I had no complaints! My whole thing was I felt like an emcee, now I was never a b-boy, you know what I’m sayin’? I look at myself as an emcee.
When I started doing music I basically understood what it took to be an artist. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but I wanted to showcase lyrical skills and at the same time put on a fantastic stage show as well as create a fashion statement. Hip hop in Brooklyn in the 70s wasn’t the same as hip-hop in the Bronx in the 70s.
During your era of rap, there were so many icons coming out of the genre who were real lyricists. In today’s scene, it doesn't seem like a priority with what many call 'mumble rap' being commonplace. Do you think lyricism in hip hop is on its way out?
No, I think hip-hop is going through a transitional stage. If you think about it, disco was an era that was all about the beat, but not really about the vocals. Eventually, New Jack Swing came in and you had your Aaron Halls and so manymore great vocalists that came out and revived RnB. I mean, it’s just going through a transition - it just needs a cleansing that’s all.
Today there are still OGs from your era making impressive albums and you’ve appeared on a few tracks. Why did you decide to call it a day on making your own projects? Is there something that we’ll hear from you soon?
I don’t know about soon, but with me it’s just that direction, like what I said about me not being a b-boy? The are heavy b-boys that are hitting underground rap. There’s an underground market where lyricism is appreciated. It’s just that, you know me, I’m the type of dude that when I give you the lyrics, I want to give you the whole package.
I want to give you much more. So I don’t really feel like there’s a market for what I do right now. If that market opens up, then hey, I mess with it. If not I’m cool.
Are you still making music in your spare time then?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did something last year on Saigon’s album. This year on Joell Ortiz’s new album. I also have something coming out with Bootsie Collins and Musiq Soulchild. So yeah I still have music coming out.
You’ve been doing some acting projects in the last few years appearing in Exposed, can we expect to see more of you on the big screen?
Absolutely. That’s what I’ve been more focused on, honestly. I’ve been more focused on the acting side. Right now I’m working on something that I won’t be featured in but I’ll be one of the executive producers. That’s the Juice Crew biopic. It will be telling the story of me, Mr Magic, Roxanne Shante, Biz Markie, MC Shan and Kool G Rap.
Beyond this tour what’s coming up for you this year?
Next week will be the final weekend of the Back to the 80s tour here in America, which I've been on for the past two months. Then, of course, I’m coming overseas to come kick it with you guys for about three weeks. When we finish that tour, there’s The Art of Rap tour that Ice-T and Mickey Benson do, we’ll be doing that. Then by fall that’s when we’ll be really concentrating on the biopic.
You can catch Big Daddy Kane live at various dates across the UK.