In two weeks time Liverpool is going to get schooled by the don. Big Daddy Kane is coming to town and you better believe it. Alongside the likes of Kool G Rap, Rakim, Slick Rick and Biz Markie, Kane is part of the pantheon of truly great late eighties solo rappers. Everything about him is iconic, from his ultimate braggadocio rhymes to the ridiculousness of his garbs, he had it going on.
Any rapper stunting owes him so much, Biggie’s avuncular arrogance, Kanye’s fashionista flyness, Jay-Z’s smooth swagger – Kane paved the way for all this and much more. In fact Jigga’s debt stretches further, with his early 90s pre rocafella days spent acting as an intermediary hype man for Kane at his shows. His first two albums are absolute classics, and there’s the fact that Rakim, RA FUCKING KIM, cooled the prospect of beef with him. You know when the God thinks twice about entering a battle with you, you’re pretty good.
So in honour of this epochal event, encased in the soon to open East Village Club, five for the funk delivers five bits of greatness from BDK. Large.
Mary Jane Girls’ ‘All Night Long’ is one of the most sampled records in hip-hop history, everyone from LL Cool J, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Redman and Ice Cube being among the fifty people in total who have used the saccharine soul 80s classic. I’ve even built a modest dj career off playing it in 90% of my sets of the past five years. But few have done it as well as on Smooth Operator.
While primarily a record in the classic Big Daddy batting off all competitors mould, he does deliver a few bars implying his acumen with the females, but it’s not as much as the title would have you belive. It’s less of a response to the anti-male diatribe of the same name from Sade than you might initially think, particularly as alongside the MJ Girls there’s samples from two of Marvin Gaye’s sexjams (‘Lets get it on’ & ‘Sexual healing’). Instead it’s just Kane doing what he does best, holding court like the don he is.
This is the ronseal of 80s hip-hop. Marley Marl’s splicing of James Brown and Bobby Byrd just about manages to avoid being dated and Kane just goes, as you’d expect, raw. He’s an absolute animal on the mic in this, just a relentless barrage of skill that is the calling card of one of the greatest. An absolute monument of the genre.
As posse cuts go this is up there with the best of them. The roll call features people who earned their stripes repping verse after verse in the Juice Crew, Tribe Called Quest and Grand Nubian, all coming together to show that they don’t need to swear to keep it going. It was of course an answer to the proliferation of Parental Advisory stickers which were rampant in hip-hop in time. It’s not the greatest 8 bars from Kane in his career, but he’s still smooth as ever and the track and video are amazing. Heavy D also looks ridiculous in prison style pyjamas, what’s not to love about that?
‘Any type of Way’
What marks Kane out from some of his peers is how graciously he’s aged. No rapper can ever maintain a scintillating appeal, but some slip from world domination to head in hands moments quicker than most. I’m looking at you KRS and Rakim. Kane however, has gone down the Slick Rick route of touring off the back of a legendary status and the odd track since his heyday and this gem from 2003, produced by DJ Premier, proves his mettle.
He’s still nice on the mic but rather than being on that arrogant tip here he is slipping into the paternal figure of hip-hop a man of his status should do. And his voice fits Preemo’s as ever on point production perfectly. The two recently joined up again for a nike commercial with the brilliant 28 bars, which features the genius closing gambit “I went on 28 just to raise the bars”. Don’t doubt this an emcee still with it.
Still the one. This is just a relentless surge of look at me I am boss; put-downs, big me-ups, the lot. From a lyrical point of view it’s hard to think of many songs that deliver an aura of greatness quite like this, and the calling card ‘I’m awesome’ records of rappers, be them Biggie’s ‘Unbelievable’, Jay-Z’s ‘So Ghetto’, Big L’s ‘Flamboyant’ and so on, all stand behind this. Everyone is a butter knife compared to Kane’s machete faced with this.
The video is gloriously lo-fi, a reminder of the lack of real money in hi-hop at the time, when you get the impression that the combined cost of the tracksuits worn by Kane and his dancers probably outweighs the overall budget. That’s not to say he isn’t looking hella fresh, with a chain that probably cost the GNP of an eastern European country and a general persona that is dripping swag. The iconic BDK tune.