Big Daddy Kane is an veteran American rapper from Brooklyn, New York. His sophomore effort, It’s A Big Daddy Thing, is 27 years old as of Monday, September 19. To date, it’s his highest selling album, certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Furthermore, in 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums.
Regarding the man himself, Rolling Stone magazine described him as “a master wordsmith of rap’s late-golden age and a huge influence on a generation of MCs. Legend has it that even the Eighties’ greatest rapper, Rakim, turned down a challenge to go mic-to-mic with Kane”.
Moving onto the album cover, Kane’s suitably amidst the affection of three scantily clad ladies, plonked on top the rear of a stretch white limousine. The champagne is on ice, all three ladies with a glass in their hands as Kane, sporting a massive gold chain around his neck, has his hands on the shoulders of the two closest to him. The lady sat furthest away has what appears to be a sports jacket draped behind her, bearing the initials “BDK”.
The opener, “It’s A Big Daddy Thing”, begins like a classic old movie, before melding into something striking. His spitfire raps reign over speedy drum tracks, with intermittent bass accentuating his adeptness. A refrain sees him punctuate the silence, however brief.
“Another Victory” has bobbing, moody bass and scratchy, funky guitar. Kane laments the struggles of street life and discrimination in general. Like blacks hailing cabdrivers in New York, for instance: “It might sound bugged/but they don’t wanna get mugged”. It’s definitely one of his signature songs, and it’s easy to see why.
“Mortal Combat” begins with wailing, scratched saxophone sample, and aural assault akin to something produced by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad. The general sample itself was latterly utilised by The Notorious B.I.G, a big Kane fan.
It’s intense and fiery, Kane laying waste to any potential opponent, perhaps even rivals as notable as his alleged competition with the one and only Rakim. The title says it all, really. His delivery like punching combinations, leaving would be opponents in a daze, the hook saying “make ’em say Daddy I don’t want none”.
The third, “Children R The Future”, has mournful, yet hopeful, bass. It’s got the aim of an uplifting track, going from mournful of tomorrow’s generation, to being hopeful they’ll turn things around. The tempo’s notably downplayed in comparison to a lot of the high octane stuff on the previous tracks. Perhaps taking time to map out his thoughts or, in the more superficial sense, proving he’s more than a fast rhymer.
Then comes “Young, Gifted And Black”. This one’s also serious, though perhaps more moody and triumphant. The horns lend it majesty, the majesty of youth, talent and ethnicity overcoming all obstacles. A refrain for him to proclaim the song’s title lends the song extra power.
“Smooth Operator” begins with thumping drum and emphatic and, at ease, bass. Smooth the word, indeed. You can picture Kane taking a stroll in the park, detailing the manifold reasons he’s the ultimate operator. The hook includes the aforementioned Rakim saying on loop, “’cos I’m so smooth”. Additional horns kick in to give a jazzy blend, leisurely and easy going.
DJ Red Alert features on “Calling Mr. Welfare”. Climbing bass greets Kane rapping about benefit claimants trying to live the high rolling lifestyle, really switching into storytelling mode. Red heralds the start of each verse, bouncing off Kane as if to incur his subsequent wrath for people not, as they say, keeping it real.
“Wrath Of Kane (Live)”, of course, coming after. This, like “Another Victory”, is amongst the album highlights. It’s a remarkable piece of emceeing, high octane, seat of your pants stuff. Apparently an asthma sufferer, he at times sounds breathless. Rapping like that, who wouldn’t?
Certainly needing, and utilising, excellent breath control. Busy, jazzy drum underpins the arrangement, with moody guitar greeting the chorus. In many respects, this reviewer finds the studio version more satisfying, ironing out all the creases in this one. The ultimate, empirical line comes with, “only twenty-one/and untouched by anyone”.
“I Get The Job Done” is steamy with cowbell laden percussion. It’s a sensual one, though, to be honest, comes off as kind of corny. Cheesy, even. It seems to take the rough themes of “Smooth Operator”, but gets braggadocio enough, talk of between the sheets, to make you cringe.
The brilliant “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” is triumphant, with soulful sample for its title lifting heads of all those that know, with endeavour, that the sky’s the limit. It’s a tad funky, too, propelled with feel good vibes. His agile rhymes dance all over the backdrop, syncopating at every beat.
The tad objectifying “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”, featuring Nice & Smooth, Scoob Lover and Ant Live, feels like a throwaway track with tiresome subject matter and off tune singing to greet its chorus. The backdrop for the verse is workable, just wasted in this context.
“Big Daddy’s Theme” opens like a cop show theme tune, funky and, yes, triumphant. It breaks down for further funk and some tasteful scratching. He merely talks, if briefly, with some idle boasting.
The tad romantic “To Be Your Man”, featuring Blue Magic and Chuck Stanley, you could argue, is reminiscent of “I Get The Job Done”, just maybe an instance more of matters of the heart than of the loin. The vocals for the hook are a bit out of tune, but lovey dovey enough to be endearing. It’s a fair old workout, with minimal rhymes, clocking almost six minutes.
The powerhouse production of “The House That Cee Built”, features the sizeable talents of Mister Cee, and is another workout, almost reaching the five and a half minute mark. It’s like something you’d hear at a late Eighties and early Nineties rave, a, of course, mix of primarily hip-hop, but aspects of dance and house music, too. It’s also opportunity for all those involved on the album to shout out their favourite artists, and so on.
“On The Move”, featuring Scoob Lover and Scrap Lover, is minimal with sparse drum, the melody largely climbing bass and occasional horn. The hook, sung out of tune almost reduces the song to throwaway value, though there are occasional inspired moments. Perhaps an opportunity, like “The House That Cee Built”, to let Kane’s cohorts breakout.
What follows is the lively “Warm It Up, Kane”. After a bit of a dip in the album, Kane comes back with an avengeance, his rhymes spit-firing as fast and syncopated as ever. The gang sung hook bolsters the whole thing, you can picture him relating his raps to his crew on a New York street corner to a roaring, warm fire inside one of those metal, cylindrical canisters.
Closer, “Rap Summary (Lean On Me) (Remix)”, is cut and chopped, Kane’s political hat on and sharp as ever. The Bill Withers sample of “lean on me when you’re not strong” serves as the song’s hook, as if to put Kane at the forefront of his generation, a spokesman.
Standout tracks are “Another Victory”, “Wrath Of Kane (Live)”, “Warm It Up, Kane” and “Rap Summary (Lean On Me) (Remix)”. “Another Victory” is the political one, very moody; whilst “Wrath Of Kane (Live)” was the battle rap one, raw in its live incarnation.
“Warm It Up, Kane” sees the previous range of styles repeat in reverse, his raps reigning supreme. “Rap Summary (Lean On Me) (Remix)” switches to the more political, and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s quite representative of why, perhaps, he was arguably a spokesman for black urban youth. If in doubt, “lean on me” for advice, sort of thing.
His range of styles, intellectual, political and adversarial orientated, on this album alone, prove why perhaps rap titans like Rakim thought twice about battling someone who was more than just a mere ladies man and entertainer.
Big Daddy Kane’s It’s A Big Daddy Kane can be bought from iTunes here.
Words by Andrew Watson