Big Daddy Kane: Nobody's Equal
Well, in Kanes interview with HipHopDX, the topics of discussion ranged from the secret battles the Brooklyn emcee had with some very capable competition, including how King Asiatic Nobodys Equal almost came to lyrical blows with another legendary golden era emcee (and set off a wax war that would have made Jay-Z and Nas Takeover/Ether exchange seem like childs play), to what Big Daddy (you know, as in your father) thinks of todays simple structured rhymes being perceived as comparable to his piercing barbs.
The Juice Crew Captain with the rapid-fire flow, and too many classic songs to name [Raw, Set It Off, Aint No Half Steppin, Smooth Operator, I Get The Job Done, etc, etc], is currently celebrating his 20th year in the rap game. And while hes spent the better part of the second half of those two decades in a more inactive status, only occasionally making cameos on others offerings, the man who carried on the fly but furious tradition of Grandmaster Caz while laying out the sonic and style blueprint for Jay-Z to follow is finally hinting at a comeback
So without further adieu, for anybody old enough to remember cutting three parts in your eyebrow in attempt to be as cool as Kane, this interview is for you.
HipHopDX: Lets start off the Q&A by getting your thoughts on the recent 20th anniversary show you did to commemorate two decades since your debut, Long Live The Kane, dropped [click to read]. How was that night for you?
Big Daddy Kane: It was beautiful, man. I really enjoyed it. Everybody was packed up in there. We had to turn a lot of people away, cause [we were at] capacity and then some. It was beautiful to see everybody that turned up, who showed love, and blessed the stage, like Positive K, The Beatnuts, Greg Nice, Billy Danze from M.O.P. And then ya know, Ice-T, Busta [Rhymes] [click to read], Swizz Beatz [click to read], all these cats came through. It was just beautiful to receive that type of love, and especially from the fans that showed up and came to have a good time. And the show was off-the-hook.
DX: I saw a spliced together clip from the anniversary show, but in that I didnt see [Kool] G Rap during the performance of The Symphony. Was he there?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, he wasnt there. We spoke prior to the anniversary, but there was like personal reasons why he couldnt make it.
DX: When I spoke to G Rap earlier this year [click to read] he confessed that he didnt have the range to do a I Get The Job Done, but he did say that there was a silent competition between yall back in the day. Do you agree?
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah. I mean, definitely. But it was like a friendly competition. Wed be on the phone like two-in-the-morning just kickin it with each other. Say like hed call, and I got to hear a rhyme, Yo, check this out And Im like, Oh yeah, thats hot. Id hit him the next night like, Yeah, yeah, I got this here joint
DX: Now there was another silent competition between you and another remarkably skilled spitter back then. What was your reaction when you first heard Word to daddy, indeed on Eric B & Rakims Follow The Leader?
Big Daddy Kane: Oh, I thought he was talking about me. Growing up and like getting into Hip Hop, I always been a battle rapper. Throughout all my school days, thats what I did, go up to other schools and battle rappers, go to other projects, park jams, whatever, and battle other rappers. So thats always been my mentality. And even though I had done met dude, and we was cool me and Eric B was real tight when I heard that [line] I didnt look at in a way of like, Oh fuck that dude, or like, Ima steal this muthafucka when I see him. But you know, Ra [is] a little dude anyway. But it wasnt nothing like that, it was just the type of thing where Im like, Oh okay, cool, well, now we gonna let the people see then.
DX: Wasnt he just responding to Set It Off though? Rap soloist, you dont want none of this. Wasnt he justified in his response?
Big Daddy Kane: Well, what happened was we spoke [after Follow The Leader]. He claimed that people was telling him, Yo, he talking about you when he said Rap soloist, you dont want none of this. And I told him I thought he was talking about me with the word to daddy. He said that he wasnt talking about me. And I explained to him that I wasnt talking about him. Im like, Yeah on ['Eric B Is President'] you said, And you know that Im the soloist. But Im like, Lets just keep in mind, any rapper that rhymes alone is a soloist. So on Set It Off [click to read] what Im referring to is myself, saying that Im the rap soloist, [and the] competition dont want none of this. Im like, Heavy D is a rap soloist. Kwame is a rap soloist. Anybody that rhymes alone is a soloist. So I explained to dude, Nah, you cant hog the title [to] yourself.
DX: I understand [before that conversation] you had a diss record cocked and ready for the R?
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah. I had something ready. And apparently he had something ready too. But what happened was Eric Bs brother, Ant Live, used to be my road manager. And some girl gave me a picture that said, "Dear Kane, I wanna set it off and get r-a-w, aint no half steppin cause Im gonna break your wrath in half." And I asked her, What did [you] mean by break the wrath in half? And she said, Rakim has a song called Break The Wrath In Half. And when Eric Bs brother, Ant, heard this and saw how heres somebody sitting here trying to speak on this - like they done heard this song and they know this is true thats when [he] was like, Yo this shit going too far. Yall need to talk. So Ant called Ra and put me on the phone and we talked.
DX: Any plans [to] work together ever [materialize]?
Big Daddy Kane: MCA [Records tried] to get us together. Heavy D tried to get us together too.
DX: Yeah, I heard about Dont Curse. Ra was supposed to be on that [in place of CL Smooth].
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah. And like, I was on MCA Records [along with Rakim] for a short stint [during the construction of the Daddys Home album]. The President of Black Music and the A&R dude, they tried to get us together to do something. I dont really know [what happened]. Ive heard that dude is like real funny [about] working with other people, so I never really stressed it. It dont make me none. It dont really make me no difference.
DX: But you wouldnt be opposed to maybe getting together in the future or something like that?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, I dont have a problem [with that]. Ive worked with a whole lot of artists, from different levels. I dont have a problem with it, but I mean, it aint like the dream song that Ive envisioned. It aint nothing that Im looking forward to.
DX: What is the dream song you envisioned [for yourself]? You ever put that on paper, like who you would rock with you never rocked with before?
Big Daddy Kane: I would love to do a song with Lauryn Hill. Id love to do a joint with her. I think that we could make an amazing song together. Id also love to do a song thats me, Cee-Lo Green [click to read], Anthony Hamilton, and Leela James. That would be my dream song right there.
DX: Back to the competitions, I gotta talk about this third one cause its resurfaced for some reason. You reportedly had [one] on your birthday in 88 with a teenage Keith Murray in a diner. Now was that really a battle or just a freestyle session like Keith is now saying it was?
Big Daddy Kane: We just really freestyled. What happened was his uncle was like trying to gas it up like, Yo, my young nephew, man, he ready to battle you. Thats when Keith [click to read], his rap name at [the] time was Do Damage [which was taken from a line in Set It Off]. And he let Keith rhyme, and then I spit a verse afterwards. And then afterwards he sat down at the table and we ate. [After that we] went and hung out at [Juice Crew manager] Fly Tys house. But nah, it wasnt a battle.
DX: Keiths saying he still got the video tape. I wanna see that!
Big Daddy Kane: Oh yeah, my brother has it too.
DX: Just while were on that tip, what about Jay-Z? Did yall ever spar during his tenure rolling with you, when he was touring with you?
Big Daddy Kane: You mean like battling?
DX: Or just any heavy freestyle sessions or anything that you recall?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, but you know thats how we met, a situation like that. See, where I lived it was another dude in the neighborhood that was also known as a nice rapper, this dude named Jaz. Shirt Kings came and said, Yo, Fresh Gordon wanna do a tape with you and Jaz. I had been looking for this dude Jaz and could never find him. So [when Shirt Kings said that] I was like, Oh so we can battle? And they said, Yeah. So I came down and when I got there Gordy was like, Nah, aint nobody gonna battle. These my people. I just wanna do a tape cause you been living around the corner from me for dumb long and I didnt even know you was there. I just want you to do a tape with us. And then me and Jaz, we met, spoke, we broke bread. He was a cool dude, so it was like, Forget the battle, lets just have some fun. And he had a dude with him. And after we did the tape, Shirt Kings was like, What do you think about Jaz? Because he trying to get a new deal. And I was like, Yo, he still nice as hell. But um, that little light-skinned dude with him, I think he better. I like him better.
DX: [Laughs] Would it be fair to say in any way that Jay became like an understudy to Kane at any point? Is that an accurate statement?
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] I mean, if thats what you wanna say I wont dispute it.
DX: [Laughs] But did you find yourself like really giving him tips, or any type of tutorial, that you can recall?
Big Daddy Kane: I mean, pretty much any rapper that hung around me, thats basically what I did. But I mean, out of love. Shyheim [click to read], Positive K, Jay [click to read], Ol Dirty Bastard, anybody that hung around like that, thats what I did, out of love.
Because its like, when I first came into the industry Biz [Markie] was teaching me a lot. And this was before he even had a deal. But he was just teaching me a lot about performing, and just shit [you need to know as an artist]. Then like when I met Doug [E.] Fresh, [it was the same thing]. Doug used to ask me to come to his crib. I used to be at like Dougs crib three, four, five-in-the-morning watching VHS tapes shit, back then it couldve been Betamax, who knows of live performances and hed be breaking down what this person did, what that person did, how thats hot, how he can do this on stage. So there was always cats that was there showing me the ropes. So therefore, when I met new dudes that was just getting on thats always what I tried to do if I formed a relationship with them.
DX: And I understand Jay kinda I guess maybe tried to pay you back a little bit, tried to sign you to Roc-A-Fella at one point?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, thats not true. Angie Martinez started the rumor, and I just ran with it. She said it on the radio, and I knew that now since people thinking that Im about to be with Roc-A-Fella, now instead of asking for the amount of money I had been asking [labels] for I could ask for a whole lot more. So if somebody was like, Yo, you getting ready to sign with the Roc, [I was like] Yep!
DX: I guess Ill just ask this since you know both parties, any thoughts on the whole Jay-Z/Jaz-O saga that doesnt seem to wanna die [click to read]? Did Jay owe Jaz anything? Hell, did he owe Kane anything after he blew up?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, he dont owe me nothing. I mean, as far as the Jaz thing, youd have to ask Jaz that. [But] he dont owe me nothing.
DX: I was just curious cause I know thats a big debate right now, how much do you owe or do you owe anything once you get to the top.
Big Daddy Kane: Well, put it like this here, when I got to the top, I felt like I owed Biz a whole lot. I still feel like I owe Biz. So I think that really depends on the individual [as to how they handle that]. Cause I mean, if dude didnt believe in me I probably wouldnt of had no career. Because I had done sent demo tapes to I dont know if you remember a label called NIA Records, that Captain Rock rapper. Matter of fact, if Im correct I think thats the original label that Marley Marl Scratch came out on. Anyway, I sent them a demo. I sent Motown a demo. I had did a deal with Reality Records that Divine Sounds hooked me up with the people that made What People Do For Money. They hooked me up with Reality Records, [but that didnt work out].
So I mean, there were situations where I tried to make things happen [but] it didnt work for me. And Biz was the person that brought me into the business. So Im forever thankful for that. He was there for the anniversary. He deejayed and came out and we did Just Rhymin With Biz [click to read]. Actually, Biz [performed] a few songs [too].
DX: Wanna switch gears to this new generation of emcees. Who in your opinion is carrying the Kane mantle in 2008? Any names catch your ear when youre listening to new stuff?
Big Daddy Kane: I like Cory Gunz [click to read]. Hes nice. Hes real nice. I like Saigon [click to read]. Hes real nice too.
DX: And 20 years ago you were the king of the simile, so I just wanted to get your thoughts on rappers today thinking just because they use like that theyre really rippin it. Saying youre hot like the sun is not ill lyricism [Laughs].
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] I heard somebody quoting some stuff like that one time before and it just really made me laugh. Because I remember one of the first times that I did that, it coulda been 84 or something like that, and I said, Like Chaka Khan, I feel for you. And its like when I heard someone say [something like] that it just made me laugh because Im sitting there thinking like, Damn, that sounds so wack right now. But it was hot as hell back then. So Im like, I wonder if like that really sounds hot as hell to this young cat? I cant remember what he had quoted. It sounded wack to me, but you couldnt tell him that wasnt the hottest thing he heard all year.
DX: [Laughs] But you were starting something. Theyre 20/25 years into the lyricism game. It just seems like it should be more advanced than that at this point.
Big Daddy Kane: I think that a lot of things that you see should be a lot more advanced, as far as from a creative level. But I mean, cats aint really thinking that hard right now. Music is just so dumbed down that its really a waste of time [to focus on lyrics].
DX: So that begs the question, when is Kane coming back so he can serve this new generation some of that Set It Off, Nuff Respect rhyme goodness?
Big Daddy Kane: Well see, man. I dont know what the future holds. Im not gonna say never, but well see what the future holds.
DX: Is it just a matter of interest, a matter of setting up the right situation?
Big Daddy Kane: Exactly, the right situation.
DX: Is that what happened to I think the album was gonna be called The Man, The Icon?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, that was just a single that I did with Alchemist [click to read].
DX: Yeah, but I thought that was recorded like in the process of putting together a whole album, like around 2002?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah, what happened was we were gonna do something with Landspeed [Records] and we started working on some songs, [but] I think they ran out of money.
DX: And so now youre saying youre just waiting on the right situation to come along?
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, I mean, theres some things that we discussing right now. If we can really get it together right, then yeah we gonna do it.
DX: No hints?
Big Daddy Kane: Well it does involve the band that I used onstage [at the anniversary show], Connie Price & the Keystones.
DX: Hmmm, okay, Ill have to figure the label situation out [Laughs]. Just a loose question, will you ever rap over a kazoo again? Cause I Can Do It Right was ill and odd at the same time [Laughs].
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] You know what I had in mind? Get Up And Dance from Freedom.
DX: Yeah, who produced that joint, you remember?
Big Daddy Kane: I did.
DX: Oh, you did that. Well I didnt mean to insult your production [Laughs].
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] Oh, nah, nah, nah, nah, we was just having fun.
DX: Another loosie, I just read that the man who made Nuff Respect has asthma?
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah.
DX: Holy shit! Were you trying to commit suicide when you were rappin or something?
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] I mean, its a lot better now. But it was bad back then, when I was younger. I got it more under control now.
DX: Wow. Another loose question real quick, did you feel prophetic when your How U Get A Record Deal video came to life and Nelly did a collabo with Tim McGraw, when countrap became a reality [Laughs]?
Big Daddy Kane: The way I look at this whole thing is like when you talking about rap it has no real music base. So if Nelly [click to read] does a song with Tim McGraw, depending on how he do it, it could still be Hip Hop. Ill be honest with you, I dont think I ever heard that song. But depending on how you do it, that can still be Hip Hop. Like you take the breakbeat Black Grass, thats like a Country song. And that was something that people would line up in the park to rhyme over. [Starts singing] Everybody got to get some. And thats like one of them square-dance sounding songs, just a hot drumbeat up under it. So its like, mixing country with Hip Hop, its not like its a bad thing.
DX: And I guess Ill wrap up by asking about the recent election. You were obviously one of the most important commentators on race back in the day, and so I just wanted to get your thoughts on living to see America elect a black man for President?
Big Daddy Kane: Im happy that I was alive to see this happen. I think thats something that black people really needed bad, someone to set the bar at another level. [We needed that] to try to make people stop always trying to say like, A black man cant do this. They aint gonna let a black man do that. Now its where you gotta stop making excuses and get off your ass and just make it happen.
DX: That would be dope if he invited Big Daddy Kane to the inaugural celebration.
Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] I doubt thats gonna happen.
DX: Obama used to bump some Big Daddy Kane back in the day [Laughs].
Big Daddy Kane: Shit, you see how they tried to come down on him just for having Ludacris [click to read] on his iPod [Laughs]. So I dont mind staying away from dude. Im still gonna support him thoroughly cause I think hes a smart dude with a good heart. I truly believe in him.