Big Daddy Kane is the man! Easily top five dead or alive on any credible best MCs ever list. Along with Rakim and Kool G Rap he is one of the most influential MCs on the planet. With his wordplay, original styles and swagger he has influenced countless artists including Eminem, Jay-Z (who served as his hypeman for a time) , 2 Pac, Big and any other dope rapper you can think of.
Kane started out as part of the Juice Crew and ghostwrote most of Biz Markie’s biggest hits as well before coming out and destroying mics with his own solo work. During his prime there was the constant comparison to Rakim and hopes of a battle between the two for the title of supreme MC. Alas it never occurred but we can still wonder.
Halftime: Let’s start off with something simple. How did you come up with your name?
Big Daddy Kane: The Big Daddy part and the Kane part came from two different things. The Kane part came from my fascination with the Martial Arts flicks when I was young. It’s like the most popular name cuz at that time you had Bruce Lee, Masta Killa, and Kane, young grasshopper. That was something used as a joke because niggas wanna play cocoa leavy or skelly outside but Thursday nights at 9 pm I can’t do it. Saturday at 3 o’clock, I can’t do it. I’m going to watch Kung Fu Theater on Saturday and the show Kung Fu on Thursday nights. That’s where the Kane part came from. The Big Daddy came from something that happened on a ski trip one time involving a young lady. It was a beach party with Vincent Price.
I listen to “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” all the time. When you recorded that, did you have any idea it would be as long lasting as it’s become?
Kane: When I recorded it, nah I didn’t. It had to really grow on me. Probably G. Rap and Ant Live, Eric B’s brother, were the ones that really made me feel it. We took a trip down to a basketball game in Baltimore and they was really bigging it up. That really convinced to be like yea yea yea I gotta get into this joint. When I first recorded, I wasn’t quite sure. I was digging it but Marley was fucking with me saying the record had too many samples in it.
What’s going on with Scoob and Scrap Lover nowadays?
Kane: I ain’t talked to Scrap in years. Scoob is chillin though. He is doing his thing. He be running with M.O.P a lot. We talked like last week. He’s chillin.
As a rapper, you did some collaborations with people that were next to impossible. How did you get together to do “All of Me” with Barry White?
Kane: We had met at Quincy Jones’ house during the “Back on the Block” project. He was on “Secret Garden” and I was on “Back on the Block” and “Birdland.” We met up at Q’s house and we talked outside for a brief moment. My man Alonzo Brown was like the head A&R cat at A&M records where Barry was at the time and he told him Kane is a real big fan of yours, he’s always playing your stuff and it would be hot if ya’ll got together. Barry was like tell him I’m a fan of his work too and we need to make that happen. One day I was in The Mondrian and Barry just called and invited me over. I came over and we sat and talked and just shot the shit and realized how much we had in common. Like my birthday is September the 10th his was September the 12th and we liked the same video games. We just had so much in common and I told him an idea I had for a song and come to find out he actually recorded a song called “All of Me Wants All of You” in the 70s that he never released. He was really tripping that I had the same idea for the title.
I was listening to KRS-ONE on the Wake Up Show the other day and he said one time Biz came up to him and was telling him how ill you were and KRS was like he was ready to battle you right then but you was like nah. Any truth to that story?
Did anything like that ever happen? If so what really went down?
Kane: I remember something like that happening with Mele Mel. Biz and Mel got into it at Latin Quarters one night and Biz was telling him I’m not no battle rapper and if you want to battle, battle my man. Mel was like I’m not talking to your man I’m talking to you. I was like I’ll take his spot and Mel said something like nah money go get a record first. As far as KRS, I think the first time we met was a battle in Canada. Everybody went over there thinking they were gonna do shows and when they arrived they found out it was set up for the U.S to battle Canada. Cut Master DC battled a DJ over there and ate him up. There was a female rapper over there named Michie Mee, she ended up coming here to sign with First Priority, she ate up the rapper from here, a chick from Harlem named Sugar. Biz handled the beat box cat from over there, I battled the solo rapper and KRS battled a crew of like three rappers. They had it as Boogie Down Productions as a group against they group but really it was just Kris, D-Nice and Scott La Rock when Scott was still alive. That’s when we met. We sat and kicked it and he was like I thought you only did the funny rap stuff that you be doing on the stage with Biz, I didn’t know you could rhyme like that. That was the first time he really heard me rhyme rhyme because when I was onstage with Biz, before I made records, I used to say funny rhymes about chicks. So he was impressed I could do stuff like that and we just kicked it. Afterwards we got cool and it got to the point when I moved out from my moms him and Ms. Melody came and helped me move. It was like me and KRS carrying couches and MS. Melody got one end of the TV stuff like that.
Kane: This is like during the time him and Shan is going at it. He came to help me move cuz we kicked it like that. He even knew that I wrote the “Have a Nice day” joint for Shante dissing him. We sat and cracked jokes about it at a bar. He’d be sitting there saying I knew you were gonna say something about the nose, that type of shit.
You brought up the ghostwriting. I know you wrote a lot of Biz’s stuff, how did all of that really get started?
Kane: It honestly got started by Biz just asking me to write something for him. It was the type of situation where when me and Biz met he thought I was a one dimensional rapper and all I could do was battle rhymes. So Biz started trying to switch it and flip it on some funny stuff and I switched it to that too. Then he tried to switch on some story stuff about broads and I started doing that. Then afterwards he was like man you nice you got a lot of styles. So when Biz started doing his thing he wanted me to write things pertaining to certain topics like “Pickin’ Boogers,” “The Vapors,” even with “Nobody Beats the Biz.” Biz would be standing over you acting all crazy like ‘Yo, I want a rhyme but I want it to be in a style where I’m rhyming like aziga ziga ziga ziga zee.’ So I’d sit down and put it in the style that he wanted. Then when Marley found out I was writing for dude I guess he passed the word to [Fly] Tye and that’s when they started really fucking with me hard and wanting to do stuff with me. Then Tye asked me to do something for Shante and when that “Have A Nice Day” joint came off he was like we need to get you to do some more stuff with Shante, are you gonna finish Biz’s album dada da it was that type of thing.
In your mind, was it just cool to write rhymes for them or somewhere in the back of your head were you ever like these cats is getting mad props off of my shit?
Kane: Biz was my man and it ain’t like I’m gonna say that shit. I’m not gonna make no song called “Pickin’ Boogers.” That’s Biz doing him so it wasn’t nothing that clashed and Shante was a woman so what she was saying also wasn’t going to clash.
Was Biz always there when you were writing for him or did you have a certain style in your head that you knew he’d be feeling?
Kane: Nah, Biz always created his own style, like the way he wanted to flow on something.
One of the deepest songs you did was “Who am I” with Malcolm X’s daughter. How did you get up with her and find out that she was a rapper?
Kane: Damn that was so long ago. I can’t say for certain but I think I met her husband first and he introduced me to her. She came by and spit something. I saw the direction all her verses was going plus knowing who she was I was like we need to do it that way.
On that song it’s kinda bugged cuz we were listening to it and on the second verse you said something like you switched up from hardcore rap.
Kane: You don’t remember off hand remember the words I used to say I switched up from being hardcore do you?
Nah but we got the record.
<Marcus goes to cue up record>
Aiight, while he’s putting that on what’s the main difference between the way you approach the mic now as opposed to back then?
Kane: I think energy wise I’m not as aggressive as I used to be because all the rap cats done pretty much fell back. Plus adjusting with time and adapting the new style that cats flow in they aren’t really that aggressive no more. When Busta start rhyming smooth, you know something’s wrong. So I don’t attack like I did on “Raw,” “Wrath of Kane,” or “Set it Off.” It’s more like “Smooth Operator,” “Ain’t no Half Steppin” tone.
Aiight I got the joint. <Puts on record>
I made a few songs that sold OK
Never top 20 or plenty airplay
I came out hardcore, flexin cock diesel
Saw a little cash, and pop goes the weasel
I had to make that change and rearrange
my whole rap format, no hardcore rap
So now all the pop charts I rule
over New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul, huh
I thought I made it, then my song faded
and none of the black stations ever have played it
I tried to blame it on MTV
and say, “Damn, they cold played me for Young MC”
But when you get down to it, I’m the real blame
because I wanted the fame
That’s funny how we gonna interview you and end up playing you your own song.
Kane: I’m glad you did cuz I ain’t heard it in I don’t know how long.
Yo that beat is banging. Who made that Marley?
Kane: Nah I did that. That was an old King Floyd CD. [As far as the verse] I wasn’t talking about me man now what the hell is you trying to say?
Haha my bad I must have misinterpreted it.
Kane: That’s when you threw me off cuz I was like I don’t remember saying nothing about me crossing over. I did R&B collaborations but I never tried to do no pop stuff.
Word, I wasn’t trying to say you crossed over I thought that’s what you said.
Kane: Nah, I was talking about other rappers doing that. As far as I’m concerned rap is black music and R&B is black music so if I do a song with another R&B artist all I’m doing is black music. I don’t consider that crossing over. If that’s the way the next person chooses to look at it that’s on them. All I did was do a song with another black artist that makes black music. I would even say doing a song with Lenny Kravitz is crossing over because even though he’s a black artist he does rock n roll, which is predominantly white music. But R&B is black music, before rap that’s all we had. When you really look at the origin of rap “Rappers Delight” is over “Good Times,” an R&B song. When cats came out they mainly rapped over R&B tracks. If you really really want to look at it Cold Crush, Fantastic, and Master Don and the Def Committee these cats when they performed were singing. When the Force MDs were the Force MCs they were like here is our rap group but when they were doing their routines they were singing. The only time they were rapping is when they would freestyle one by one but the majority of their routine was straight up singing. So that whole melodic thing has always played an important part in hip hop from the beginning. So I don’t really consider a cat doing something over R&B music crossing over but when you go into pop and rock n roll then yea. Doing something on an R&B beat might make you go platinum but when you doing something with a pop artist or some rock n roll music that’s when you start messing with 4 or 5 million in sales because you are selling to a different audience.
That’s why I never understood why Wu referred to R&B as rap and bullshit when a lot of the beats they sample come from R&B and that’s the foundation for hiphop.
Kane: From my understanding, Genius had a lot of problems with Cold Chillin’ forcing him to go in that direction. They were trying to make him into another Kane because I was having problems with the label. And when you look at RZA his first hit was that “Oooh I Love You Rakeem,” so there is probably a possibility that the label took them in a direction they didn’t want to go and that was their way at lashing back at that form of music because they didn’t want to go that direction.
I remember a joint you guys did back in the day called “Racism” and you said talk more shit than Al Sharpton. What do you think about this cat running for president now?
Kane: I got a lot of respect for Al Sharpton especially that time I seen him on the Chris Rock show. I gained mad respect for him then. He was the first person I ever really seen Chris unable to make a fool of. Chris ate Jesse’s ass up and Marion Barry. He couldn’t do nothing with Al Sharpton. Al was sharp as a motherfucker and everything he said made sense. To be honest with you the way the country is I couldn’t see him winning. With Bob Dole, there were a lot of people who liked Bob Dole but didn’t vote for him because he was handicapped. There’s a lot of people who wouldn’t vote for Al Sharpton because he has a perm.
Buckshot is one of them.
Kane: It’s like this there ain’t nothing wrong with the perm it don’t bother me. Ice T made it far with his perm. I can’t knock the hustle if that’s your thing because that don’t make or break you. It’s what you know.
I had a question about your production. I never knew you did a lot of your own hits like “Wrath of Kane” and “Smooth Operator.” What got you into doing beats and what kind of sound were you looking for when you first started?
Kane: When I first started it was kinda a combination of James Brown, The Meters, and Gamble and Huff. I guess the Philly sound.
Were you always messing around with beats?
Kane: I had always been doing it. For me to really get into that conversation there I’d been done stirred up some fifteen year old drama so let me be quiet.
Aiight. In the “Symphony” video how come you were the only one not in the bar?
Kane: I wasn’t available. I wish I could have been there. If you seen the movie “Posse” you know I don’t have nothing against being a cowboy.
Being the veteran that you are where do you place yourself on the list of top emcees?
Kane: I put myself in the top five.
Who’s the other four?
Kane: I’d put Rakim, KRS. Actually I’m not gonna say top five, I’ll put it like this Biggie, Jay-Z, G Rap, myself, and Nas.
Now you know we gotta talk about some Rakim and Kane and G Rap and Kane. A lot of people have said you and G Rap always had an unspoken rivalry.
Kane: Me and G Rap had a competitive relationship but it was for the best. It was the type of thing where we’d talk on the phone at night and G would be like I got this joint and he’d kick it and I’d go aiight I got something. When we hang up the phone we like damn he came hard and we back to the pen and paper. We always had love for each other. For me there was always a certain way I felt about G. I always feel like I took his slot. I felt like if I would have never fucked with Cold Chillin’ he would have been that ill lyricist to really blow that way. I always felt he never got the props he deserved. When I took off it wasn’t really room for two so my man never got to shine the way I know he could have. I don’t think the world really knows how great that nigga is on the mic.
What about you and Rakim? I’ve been reading about how they were trying to build up that rivalry and wanted you two to battle. Marcus and me were talking about it earlier like who would win if Kane actually battled Rakim. What was the relationship with you guys throughout that whole era cuz ya’ll were the shit, period.
Kane: We always been cool. We never had no problem or whatnot. I always thought it would have been nice [to battle]. I was always down to do it but I mean it was like we were friends. I think a lot of other people blew it out of proportion but we didn’t have no personal beef. I never disliked him. I thought it would have been nice though because it’s like here is who everybody is talking about. It would be nice to know who’s the nicest. Better yet you can’t really say that because it’s like with boxing, there are people Lennox Lewis lost too and came back and beat. That lost didn’t mean that person was better than him. So I can’t really say that. It would have been nice if it would have happen I’ll just say that.
That would have been crazy. That tape would be like gold. Everyone would want to have that.
Kane: When they did Rap Mania they tried to make that happen. For the second one they tried to make it into a battle situation.
Everybody tried to say ya’ll had little stuff ya’ll were saying about each other on record but that’s probably what you mean when you said they blew it out of proportion. Did you ever put any jabs out there just for competition?
Kane: Nah and you know it’s funny cuz when I hear what people be talking I can see where they may have thought something. Like on “Set It Off” they made a comment about “Rap soloist/you don’t want none of this.” I think on “Eric B. 4 President” he said you know that I’m the soloist. My exact words were ‘Feel my blood fist, or my death kiss/ The rap soloist/ You don’t want none of this’ meaning that I’m a rap soloist and the competition don’t want none of this. If you rhyme alone you a motherfuckin soloist so I mean whoever ran a different direction with it just cuz Ra referred to himself as the soloist don’t make him the only god damn soloist.
When the “Vapors” came out and people finally got to associate the name with the face how did your life change?
Kane: Oh pussy galore.
Kane: Come on man. How you think it changed. Word up that was all I needed. Big up to Lionel Martin.
When I was in the sixth grade, word was going around you and Kwame were brothers.
Kane: Haha. I think Kwame started the rumor. Nah that’s my man he’s a talented brother, he is doing his thing right now on the production side. I got a lot of respect for that brother.
You’ve pretty much seen everything go down in hiphop. What were some of the most memorable things you’ve seen happen?
Kane: Let me see. The night when KRS and them threw PM Dawn off the stage.
Kane: I ain’t know what was going on I thought cats was getting rushed. I really ain’t know what was popping off. What else, oh the night when Roxanne Shante battled Fruitkwan at the DMC joint. Yea when Shante took out Fruitkwan. You know that’s kinda ugly right there. Another incident was something that happened with Kool Moe Dee. It was something that he told me giving me props and it really meant a lot to me coming from him. I can’t really tell you what he said but it meant a whole lot because if you familiar with the battle with him and Busy Bee, the verses he used to spit on them old tapes or like that song he made called “Turn It Up,” Kool Moe Dee in the early eighties was that nigga. For him to give me that type of credit really meant a lot. I don’t think he really know how much he touched me that day.
Do you feel you get the respect that you deserve from hip hop artists and audiences today?
Kane: From people on the street and other entertainers yea. Now from the media or radio hell no! But it’s like everything I’ve done was for fans so when I get love from them it’s beautiful. So I’m satisfied.
Where do you see yourself in today’s scene. I know you’ve been working on some new stuff, where’s your spot now?
Kane: I ain’t really been too focused on it that hard. I’ve really just been more like if it’s going to be it’s going to be we’ll see. That’s all to it. If it was meant to happen I’m ready and very much on top of my game, if not I’m cool with that too. I got what a lot of cats don’t have, a lot of good memories and I’m alright.
And you were an influence to everybody I know. I think my father is a Kane fan. Your persona reminded me of a younger version of him. One year when I first started getting my turntables and stuff he came around with all these records and he had this big ass Big Daddy Kane collection out of all of these old records. I was like wow. If he was listening to any rap it was Kane.
Kane: That’s interesting. I remember when I met Teddy Pendergrass. This was after the accident and everything. I forgot what it was for but it was a big thing with a bunch of entertainers. He said how are you doing and I was like hey man I’m a big fan of your work I’ve always loved your music and he started smiling and said I’m a big fan of yours too “Pimpin Ain’t Easy” is my cut.
Kane: I fuckin lost it. I walked around the whole day like ‘Yo you heard what Teddy said?’
If Teddy Pendagrass told me that, I would feel like the man.
Kane: That’s how I was the whole day, it was like you can’t tell me shit.
I’ve been listening to a lot of your stuff lately and sometimes it’s not even what you say but the charisma that comes off the records. Its’ like at the end of some of your verses you were like the competition is so pathetic I’m just gonna giggle at the fact they even want to step to me.
Kane: That’s that sarcasm. I got that from Grand Master Caz. Even back then when I thought Moe Dee was the nicest rapper in the early eighties, I thought that Caz had that fuckin style. Like that nigga said “I’m six one and a half/ No good at math/ Say rhymes to myself when I’m taking a bath.” Just certain shit he said like “Grand Master Caz I’m the best you can get / If you can’t say something nice don’t say shit.” It’s just stuff that Caz said I just thought this cat is off the hook. Just the way he expressed himself. It’s crazy. So I was like a real big Caz fan.
That’s tight how you recite those verses that influenced you back in the day. Cuz man I can just remember sitting here rewinding the joint till I could actually say I’m the B-I-G-D-A-Double D-Y K-A-N-E. That took me a while to be able to say it that fast along with the record. I had to practice.
Kane: I’ve always thought it was funny how that became a topic because to me I didn’t do shit but spell my damn name.
Kane: I didn’t really do nothing real fancy about that.
What do you think about the greatest hits CD they put out for you not too long ago?
Kane: I think it was put together real nice.
Last question what would you say if you were stuck in an elevator with Jah Rule and 50 Cent.
I would probably tell them to make it a sport and not personal because there is a whole lot of money they can make off of that. They don’t have to like each other just like the amount of money ya’ll beef could make. They could sit up there, make a pay per view event Jah Rule vs. 50 Cent, make crazy money, and just go at it battling song for song.
Thanks a lot man it’s been a pleasure.
Veteranz Day (1998)
Daddy’s Home (1994)
Looks like a Job For..(1993)
Prince of Darkness (1991)
Taste of Chocolate (1990)
It’s a Big Daddy Thing (1989)
Long Live the Kane (1988)
Here I am, r-a-w
A terrorist, here to bring trouble to
Phony mc’s, I move on and seize
I just conquer and stomp another rapper with ease
Cause I’m at my apex and others are below
Nothing but a milliliter, I’m a kilo
Second to none, making mc’s run
So don’t try to step to me, cause I ain’t the one
I relieve rappers just like tylenol
And they know it, so I don’t see why you all
Try to front, perpetrating a stunt
When you know that I’ll smoke you up like a blunt
I’m genuine like gucci, raw like sushi
To stage a rage is what rap did to me
To make me want to create chaos and mayhem
Cold rock a party until the a.m.
I’ll make a muscle, grab the mic and hustle
While you stand dazed and amazed, I bust a
Little rhyme with authority, superiority
And captivate the whole crowd’s majority
The rhymes I use definitely amuse
Better than dynasty, or hill street blues
I’m sure to score adored for more without a flaw
Cause I get raw