In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Big Daddy Kane was in the ruling class of Hip Hop. The Brooklyn, New Yorker’s albums and work with the Juice Crew raised the standard of emcee excellence in the genre, and ushered in a new lyrical elite. Whereas so many of Kane’s peers challenged time and artistic evolution with a string of albums, 1989’s epitome of cool focused on his jaw-dropping live show, high-profile guest appearances and raising a family.
This month, Kane is returning to retail with his first project since 1998's Veteranz' Day. With Las Supper, Kane has assembled a Soul/R&B group that channels a sound that always informed B.D.K. records, while reminding an expanding generation of fans that a genre is nothing but a section in the record store. Speaking with HipHopDX, one of Hip Hop’s living legends speaks on his new clique and their March 26 album, Back To The Future, and what may likely be Rap’s most famous freestyle, which he made possible.
Big Daddy Kane Explains Reasoning For Forming Soul Group Las Supper
HipHopDX: How did you come across Las Supper? Did you hear them in North Carolina or in your travels, the Internet?
Big Daddy Kane: These are actually New York guys that backed me for a live show at B.B. King’s before. That’s how we ended up meeting; they played music for me. Then they ended up doing their own stuff, I had some ideas, and collectively, we were able to really just get ‘em across—incorporating Showtyme [who people have heard from work with] Pharoahe Monch. That’s how that went down. It’s three different entities comin’ together to create a Soul thing and also add some Hip Hop to it as well.
DX: Anybody familiar with your catalog knows you’ve always had ties to R&B/Soul music, especially on your Prince Of Darkness album. Has working with a vocal group been on your radar for some time now?
Big Daddy Kane: Nah. I remember going to see Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings at this club down in Chapel Hill, [North Carolina]. Then, I went back again a few weeks later to see Talib Kweli. It was the same audience, the same exact audiences at both shows. I was like, “Wow, these young college kids are into Soul music [and] conscious Hip Hop”—what we did back in the late ‘80s. So I was thinking that merging the two together is somethin’ that they would appreciate. It’s not like you’d be goin’ after two different audiences.
DX: For anybody who hasn’t seen you perform live or at least watched The Chapelle Show Block Party documentary, I know that while you haven’t released albums in the last 15 years, your live show is still among the best out. Does Las Supper give you a way to enhance your stage-show when you travel together?
Big Daddy Kane: Oh yeah. Absolutely. A lot of the stuff that I’ve been able to do live, on-stage at a [Big Daddy] Kane show with a band has been phenomenal. We’ve been able to take it to whole different levels—a new plateau. Now it’s like young guys, new material, and I’m rockin’ with them, and at the same time, I get to squeeze in a few of my joints as well.
DX: What was your creative direction in the album?
Big Daddy Kane: I just wanted it to be funky, and feel vintage and have a real good feel. I didn’t want it to be head-noddin’ music; I wanted it to be somethin’ that would make you want to get up and dance. Also, I wanted it to have a positive message—whether it’s about loving your brother-man, relationships or takin’ care of your children, lovin’ ya moms.
DX: Your music has always been about positivity. But out of curiosity, why do you think that’s so important right now?
Big Daddy Kane: I think that a lot of times you have artists that try to deliver a positive message. It might be a younger generation of rappers that’s gettin’ into the game, and they’re not interested in that because all you really gave was the message. But I think that in a situation where you can kick some positive lyrics but you spittin’ fire, sayin’ hot stuff, it can really encourage someone to [react to another, less-positive rapper and] be like, “Yo! He not even talkin’ nothin’, and his lyrics is crap. I wanna do somethin’ like that.” [When they put a dope, positive message] on repeat, I think it can be inspirational to a younger generation, knowin’ that you can have positive lyrics and still bein’ hot rhymes.
DX: What is your thought on the state of Soul music?
Big Daddy Kane: Look at artists like Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Raphael Saadiq, Aloe Blacc—these are all artists that are makin’ music that sounds like it came out in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.
Big Daddy Kane Asserts That Hip Hop Is A Gestalt Of Many Genres
DX: Snoop Lion is said to be working on a Reggae-inspired album. Heavy D made Vibes and even received a Grammy nomination for his Reggae album. Pharoahe Monch has done some singing. Do you think that what you’re doing right now, along with these guys helps set a standard for your Rap peers that there are options outside of a 20, 25-year career?
Big Daddy Kane: I believe that music is infinite. To me, it’s like this: Someone can sit there and get caught up in the B.S. of “Oh, someone came along 20 years [later] and instilled in peoples’ minds that ‘Aw, that’s sellin’ out. That ain’t Hip Hop.’” The bottom line is this: When you talk about Hip Hop and its origins—park jams, house parties, Bond’s International [Casino], Harlem World, when they got on the mic, they were rhymin’ to Disco beats, Soul records, Rock & Roll. [Billy Squier’s] “Big Beat” is Rock & Roll. [Chic’s] “Good Times” is a Disco beat. Otis Redding’s “Tramp” and [The Honeydrippers’] “Impeach The President,” those are Soul records. [Cerrone’s] “Rocket In The Pocket” is basically Electronic. All of that is part of Hip Hop, any way you look at it.
Big Daddy Kane Recalls Biggie, Tupac & Shyheim Freestyle 20 Years Later
DX: This year marks the 20th anniversary of what is possibly the most famous freestyle of all-time, and you were behind it. You, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Shyheim Da Rugged Child. What do you remember from that night?
Big Daddy Kane: Basically, what happened was—Mister Cee, he came to me and said, “Yo, [The Notorious B.I.G.] wants to come to the show tonight, and he said he’s gonna bring Tupac.” You know me. I’m in my battle frame of mind, so I’m like, “Oh. I get to go toe-to-toe with Tupac on stage? Hell yeah. Tell Big to bring that nigga; how many passes he need? Yes.” Basically, that’s where my mind was. That was a time period where my sales were declining and Tupac was like the new dude. So here’s my opportunity to show y’all who’s the nicest. They came and hung in the dressing room and all that. Then it was time to go on stage. I called him and Big up. I already had Shyheim; he had done the whole tour with me—the whole Superfest. We all just spit that night and went at it, and Cee was recordin’ it. I’m glad he did too, because of all the drama that ended up happening between [Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. later], at least you get to hear them together, havin’ fun on somethin’. Neither one of them are here with anymore. Both of them passed away without really gettin’ a chance to reconcile their differences. So it’s great to see them in a moment when they are friends, havin’ fun together.
I guess the two sad things about that particular night that I don’t really dig are: Number One, when people play it, they only really play ‘Pac and Biggie, they never really play me. Number Two, Fat Joe was there. He wanted to get on, and they was pressin’ me for time, and I never really got a chance to let Joe rock. I remember back in the days goin’ to a New Edition or Bobby Brown concert hopin’ they’d call me up on stage. I know how it is, “I wanna rock at the Garden.”
DX: I told you 10 years ago, but I think you might’ve had the best verse of the four. But it is the only true [collaborative] recording that exists of those two, and that night, there’s the only photo that I know of, that exists of those two…
Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, Biggie had the Kane bandanna on—the B.D.K. bandanna. I think it was that night, yeah.
DX: In the wake of Tim Dog’s death, you guys both represented Hardcore Hip Hop, to me, growing up. I know he’s was from the Bronx and you’re Brooklyn all day, but as Rap peers, do you have any memories there?
Big Daddy Kane: I mean, we met once. [Chuckles] I guess my main Tim Dog memory is with my oldest son. He’s 24 now, but I think he was probably four years old back then. Me and my brother was drivin’ to the store, blasting “Fuck Compton.” We get to the store and turn the radio down. My lil’ man in the back screamin’ “fuck Compton!” That’s when I realized I gotta watch what I play around this dude. [Laughs]
DX: In your whole career, what is your proudest verse?
Big Daddy Kane: Probably “Mortal Combat” [from It's A Big Daddy Thing].
Las Supper's Back To The Future will release on March 26th.