Big Daddy Kane put the heavy water in the Juice Crew and delivered some of the most authoritative verses in hip-hop during his lengthy career. He recently made a special appearance at Abstract Workshop in Costa Mesa. This interview by Dan Collins.
How are Scoob and Scrap? Are they doing alright?
Oh yeah, they’re great. We all performed together for the first time in—I don’t know, about 12 years, for my 20th anniversary in November, at B.B. King’s in New York. Several other artists came out: MOP, Beatnuts, Positive K…
A lot of us actually wonder—why has it been so long since you’ve put out a new album? Are you in semi-retirement?
Um—you know what? That might be a good way to put it. I never really thought of a word to phrase what I do. I kind of like that. I still do perform a lot. And I am working on a new project with a gentleman by the name of Darnell Chavez and Connie Price and the Keystones. It’s just a matter of finishing it up.
I saw you live once at an old school hip-hop show in Oklahoma, with Run DMC, Doug E. Fresh and Whodini and you were the most stylish guy there. You always had more style—was that a conscious decision on your part, to dress classier than your peers?
Yeah—I mean first of all, I’m my father’s son, and I’m used to seeing my father dressed fly. So that was something as a kid that always fascinated me, you know? Like, when I’m grown, I want to be fly like my father, because when I was a kid, I always had other kids in the neighborhood coming up to me and being like, ‘Yo, is your father a pimp or something?’
What did your father actually do for a living?
My father was actually a truck driver! That’s just his style. He liked to get fly.
Speaking of style, I know that ‘Kane’ comes from Kung Fu, but ‘Big Daddy’ comes from Vincent Price, right? From the Beach Party movie?
Yeah. It all came from a joke, something that happened on this dude ranch trip as a joke. And when I told Biz Markie the story, he told me, ‘You should use that on your name. Instead of MC Kane, you should be Big Daddy Kane.’
I’m a huge fan of those movies! Have you seen Muscle Beach party, where little Stevie Wonder sings a song and Dick Dale the surf guy backs him up?
In that same movie? I haven’t seen those movies in years upon years. What made me remember the Big Daddy part is that you kept seeing this guy with a great big sombrero, and every time he moved, they would stop dancing and would wait for him to say something. They’d be like ‘Big Daddy’s getting ready to speak!’
In 2003, you came out with a single with Morcheeba—‘What’s Your Name.’ It was maybe a little bit psychedelic?
Oh, well, you know, they put the track together. I thought it came out really good. I was very happy with it. But it was a vision that they saw. What I’m really interested in is what I’m about to do now. What I’ve always really wanted to do is combine hip-hop with soul. And when I say ‘soul,’ let me make sure you’ve got the right definition. I’m talking Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch. That’s my definition of soul.
Since we’re talking about old soul, you actually did a track on Taste of Chocolate with Rudy Ray Moore. What was he like?
Well, I’ve always been a big Dolemite fan. I mean, praise be on to the brother. In my heart, he’ll always be missed. I’ve always been a Dolemite fan since I was a kid, I can’t remember if it was Dolemite or Human Tornado, but my cousin took me.
Did you see Disco Godfather, where everybody’s on PCP?
Yeah, that one wasn’t one of my favorites. I think Human Tornado was my favorite, then Devil’s Son in Law and Dolemite.
Human Tornado was his favorite! That’s what Rudy Ray Moore said. Did you get to talk to him before he died?
We hung out in Chicago about two years before he passed.
I just interviewed this other band, the Phantom Surfers—he was on their album, too! He’s done the gamut on everything. But talking about classic soul, you also worked with Barry White on that same album, on ‘All of Me.’
Yeah. Taste of Chocolate was pretty much my fan album. What I mean by that is like people I was fans of—getting an opportunity to work with them. Because I’m a celebrity, too. I ain’t asking for an autograph—I’m asking for a song.
My friends and I were watching the video for ‘All of Me,’ and there’s a scene where you’re basically getting down and dirty with a lady, and Barry White’s kind of watching over you, and giving you a thumbs up. Does that count as a three-way?
I don’t think it was a three-way! I think it was more of a passing-the-torch type of thing. Him just giving me my props! That’s how he ends it off, saying ‘Get bad, young man, get bad.’
Well, if that’s not a three-way, what about that infamous sexy photo of you, Naomi Campbell and Madonna that wound up in her Sex book?
I met Madonna through a Warner Brothers promotion tour. They had me, Madonna, and Color Me Badd going to hospitals to visit children who were in intensive care, or something like that. And we met there, and we talked and had a great conversation, and she was just so down to earth. She told me about the book, and asked me if I would be down for modeling in it, and I said ‘Sure.’ And I flew down to Miami, and we did the photos, and that’s really all there was. Nothing sexually happened. We just took photos.
Well, that’s too bad! I’ll write it up to make it sound dirtier. But I also wanted to talk about you as a career-creator. You helped a lot of people get their start. Like, on Daddy’s Home, you had both Jay-Z and Ol’ Dirty Bastard helping you out. Did you see talent in those guys—‘I’m going to help and give them a leg up?’
When Wu Tang first came out—this is when they had ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and Method Man—we did a show together at Newark Symphony Hall in New Jersey. This was my first time seeing them perform as a unit. And I turned to one of my boys and said ‘I want to meet the crazy one, and the kid.’ They had Shyheim with them. And afterwards… I already knew Genius [GZA] from when he was on Cold Chillin’—Warner Brothers. And we all kicked it and had a little rhyme cycle, joined in with Wu Tang, and we all had a little rhyme. And afterwords, I took Ol’ Dirty and Shyheim and we went to this party out in Queens, and we kicked it, and I told them, ‘I’d like to work with you.’ And I just saw a lot of talent, so I just tried to deal with them on that wavelength.
But what about Jay-Z? Who dresses better, you or Jay-Z?
C’mon, are you serious?
Ha ha—I think Jay-Z probably wears more expensive clothes than I do. But I mean, come on—be real. I don’t think he’ll ever be able to dress better than me, but he can definitely dress more expensive than I can!
You gave him a leg up! Why hasn’t he let you do something on one of his albums?
That’s a question you’d better ask Jay-Z. I’d rather not answer that.
Alright—who was your biggest inspiration coming up? I think you’ve stated in public that you kind of created ‘fast-rapping.’ Was there some hero who you said ‘I want to do that! I want to bring that into what I do and make it big’?
You know who really created fast rapping? Jaz-O. That’s who created the fast-rapping type of style. It was almost like you had Kool Moe Dee and Spoonie G doing it back in the early eighties, but they weren’t going as fast as Jaz. He created it and taught Jay-Z how to do it, and when Jay came up under my wing, just like I was teaching him how to perform and things of that nature, he started showing me that little technique. So I picked it up from Jay-Z when he was up under my wing. But Jaz was the one who created that.
Do you think you added your own twist to it?
I did it my way because I didn’t want to sound like him. Because those were the days when biting was illegal. You don’t want to be channeling another dude! So I used my own technique, so I wouldn’t sound like that dude. But I’m not going to say I added my own spice to it because there was nothing to add—because Jaz and Jay-Z did it so incredibly.
Who’s out now? Who’s up and coming who we don’t know about but should know?
I really like this kid Saigon. I think he’s a hot lyricist, and sounds like someone who has a passion for hip-hop. He doesn’t sound like someone who started rapping to make money. He sounds like someone who started rapping to be recognized as a dope MC.
How do you feel about modern hip-hop, modern sampling, modern beats—do you like what’s popular right now? Or do you think it could have gone in another direction?
I would have loved to see it go into a different direction, but I’m not mad! Music has to grow, music has to have changes. It always did. Look at what we came from: the standards—someone just singing over a piano. On to the doo-wop phase, onto the Motown era, onto seventies funk, onto New Jack Swing, it always goes through some type of transitional stage. That’s just the way music is.
You once said ‘Success ain’t nothing unless you have someone to share it with.’ Is that true? Do you have somebody else in your life?
Yeah, I have someone in my life.
Has it made success better?
I don’t really do these types of questions, man! I’m not a big fan of going into my personal life. The main thing that I’m wanting to get across is the fact that Big Daddy Kane, Darnell Chavez, and Connie Price and the Keystones will be combining to do a project together that has never occurred before. Something that’s unique and real soulful.
VISIT BIG DADDY KANE AT OFFICIALBIGDADDYKANE.COM.