Known for his linguistically impressive “Asiatic flow,” rapper Big Daddy Kane (which sometimes stands for “King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal”) has always been a multi-talented dude. A member of the Juice Crew and Islam’s Five Percent Nation, Kane also produced all of his own hit albums in the 80s, including Wrath of Kane and Smooth Operator.
“When I first started, I was kinda going for a combination of James Brown, The Meters, and Gamble and Huff,” he explained to me on the phone for the St. Petersburg Times, back before I’d ever heard those last two artists.
I later interviewed Kane by phone again from New Orleans, for OffBeat magazine, just before his Jazz Fest appearance with Slick Rick (whom I’ve also met several times). Big Daddy and I discussed his jazz influence, his status as a tough guy who also dances during his performances, and his many years unsuccessfully trying to procure a record contract for his then-hypeman, a young Jay-Z, whose talent didn’t set him apart from rap’s early generation of super-talented heroes (hot take: Jay Z looks a lot more impressive juxtaposed against today’s terrible radio rappers, whereas back then he seemed average).
So mellow as to be almost sedate, Kane came alive while telling me about the many rap hits he ghostwrote, some far outside his hard-but-smooth style, such as his collaborations with Biz Markie, which include, “Pickin’ Boogers,” “The Vapors,” and “Nobody Beats the Biz.”
“Biz would be standing over you, acting all crazy,” Kane recalled. “He’d be like, ‘Yo! I want a style where I’m rhyming like aziga ziga ziga ziga zee!’” And Kane would make it happen.
Big Daddy Kane was less warm in person, however — though maybe that was my fault. Shortly after our second interview, I was standing with a friend at the airport, looking across the sea of passengers when I recognized The Kane by his trademark high-top fade. Excited, I jogged through the crowd to accost him.
He wasn’t wearing his famous dooky chains or four-fingered rings. And from the look on his face, he didn’t like what he saw coming at him. I then made the presumptuous mistake of extending my hand as I reminded him of our conversations. Throughout my explanation, he just kind of looked down at my outstretched hand like it might be dirty. In the awkward silence after I’d finished talking, he reluctantly allowed me to shake the royal hand.
I was unsurprised to find that Big Daddy Kane was, socially, a very reserved dude. Still: LONG LIVE THE KANE!
PS> Check out his recent Tiny Desk Concert! So good!
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