March 18, 2016 Interview – Big Daddy Kane
Considered one of the most influential and skilled MCs in Hip Hop history, New York native Big Daddy Kane has built an amazing name for himself. Launching his career three decades ago, originally a part of the Rap collective known as Juice Crew, in 1988 Kane went on to top charts with his debut album, Long Live the Kane. Following up with one hit record after another, Kane dropped six more studio albums through 1998’s Veteranz’ Day and garnered a Grammy Award along the way. Staying active through the new millennium writing, recording, and producing in a multitude of platforms, Kane’s legacy is still being forged all these years later. Recently sat down to speak with the lyrical mastermind for a look into his career, his plans for the future, his acting career, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for over three decades now, and you have attained several gold selling records. You have won a Grammy and are considered one of the most legendary Hip Hop artists of all time. First, tell us, what has this incredible journey been like for yourself?
Big Daddy Kane – It’s been a lot of fun, adventurous, and educational.
CrypticRock.com – One would imagine so. A lot has happened in the time that you have been working in the industry. What are some of the biggest things that you have seen change?
Big Daddy Kane – I’ve seen the direction of music change several times throughout my career. I’ve seen the process of making music change from cassettes, to CDs, to MP3s. I’ve seen the mentality of the fan base change, a lot of things, and I’ve seen a lot of things revert back to what it was in the ’80s.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is true. You look at the way we consume music, a lot of it is digital now. There is also a great portion of people, who really do love music, who are going back to vinyl, which is kind of cool.
Big Daddy Kane – Yes, a lot of people are going back to vinyl, a lot of people are showing respect and interested in breakdancing and beatboxing again. A lot of people are going back to the flattop hairstyle, arching their eyebrows, I’ve seen a lot of stuff go back to what it was back in the days as well.
CrypticRock.com – Quite honestly, stylistically, it would be great to see Hip Hop return to the golden age. For a while, it seems like most of the mainstream stuff, meaning what the major labels feed us, is not conveying the important message Hip Hop once did. What do you think about that?
Big Daddy Kane – Absolutely, a lot of people like to blame a lot of the young artists for the condition of music today. Me, personally, there’s a lot of young artists that come up under this Hip Hop banner the way it’s presented to them. Their knowledge is what they see on TV right now, current state Hip Hop, and that’s what they indulge in, that’s what they try to become as opposed to studying the roots or the heritage of the Hip Hop culture, which is never really presented. You have to search for documents, which is something that’s not showcased on network television on a regular basis, or a respectable awards show that really showcases that, or tell us the story. It’s not really there for young generations. I think that a lot of the social media, a lot of television, and most definitely radio, are the ones that really destroy the way Hip Hop culture really is.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, you have to dig for it. It is unbelievable how you have to dig for it, where, opposed to other forms of music, things are celebrated a little more. Hip Hop has a really rich culture between the ’70s into the’ 80s, and into the ’90s. Why do you think that it is not really put forth where people can find it so easily?
Big Daddy Kane – For corporations, it’s more lucrative to function and operate the way that it does now; that’s what works better. If you have a Big Daddy Kane, or a Public Enemy, or a Run-D.M.C., if you had a Jay Z or a NAS in this day and age, what happens is you have someone that sets the bar and becomes that big successful artist where you have to constantly give them a bigger advance, a bigger portion of what he owns as far as his music is concerned. You have a lot of other artists trying to follow in the those footsteps when it’s so much easier to just take someone and let them be a one hit wonder, put on a hot song. When it fizzles out, grab someone else to follow in tradition of what just was popping, with the same type of sounds, same type of flow, and just do it again with another artist. So on and so on, that way the artist himself, he doesn’t have any longevity and you don’t have to deal with those type of issues, establishing and building a star and putting that much money into him. Or that much time. Labels don’t even have A&Rs, artist development, and in house publishers anymore.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is all very accurate what you are saying there, agreed. It is kind of sad, hopefully things will change. You have to keep positive. You have kept yourself active through the years. In the 2000s, you were still writing music, working on films, and producing others. You have not released a full album as Big Daddy Kane since 1998 with Veteranz’ Day. Do you have plans put out a new record in the near future?
Big Daddy Kane – At this point in time, I don’t see anything happening like that. I can’t tell the future. It doesn’t interest me at the moment. A year down the line, you never know. I’m not going to say that I would never put one out. At the present moment, that’s not really my focus. I do a lot of features, there’s a lot of artists in the younger generation that are calling me to be on their projects. There are a lot of legends that ask me to do something on one of their projects, stuff like that.
CrypticRock.com – Understood and you are right, no one can predict the future. More recently in 2013 you released an album called Back to the Future a part of the band Las Supper. How did this interesting project come about?
Big Daddy Kane – The band that I tour with, the Lifted Crew, I went to a club in North Carolina and saw a show with Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli and then I came back a few weeks later and saw Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. There were just so many people in the crowd at the Sharon Jones show that said, “Yeah, we saw you there with Talib, he was just here 2 weeks ago.” I’m just amazed that it was the same demographical agent and everything that love that vintage soul and that real Hip Hop sound. I was imagining that the 2 of them were meshed together, cause no one has ever did that. R&B artists feature a rapper to do a verse, but imagine the singer is taking the verse and the rapper is taking the B section where we form it into like the Temptations or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. We try to do something new and innovative and showcase the talent from my man Showtime that sings with Pharoahe Monch and Nicky Cake that sings with the Lifted Crew and the two young ladies with the Lifted Crew Yvette and Erin, and just do a full, all band out.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is really cool. It is a shame it did not get more publicity because it is a very cool concept and an enjoyable listen. As you had mentioned, you collaborate with others, you have been for a long time and you continued to do so – Biz Markie, Public Enemy, as well as others. Simply put, you have worked with a lot of different people. Do you enjoy that ability to collaborate with other artists like that?
Big Daddy Kane – I enjoy it when it’s authentic. For example, with Biz, I have my style of writing, I have my way of thinking. I would never in a million years decide that I want to make a song about picking boogers. I would never in a million years rhyme about closing stores and stuff that you would do inside the Alley Square mall. So when Biz come to me with stuff like this and presents me with these type of challenges, it takes me out of my box and expands my abilities. For him to just say, “I need a song with a style like a zucca, zucca, zucca, zeeya,” and come up with “Nobody Beats The Biz” and stuff like that, I think is so authentic. Even with Heavy D; come in with the concept of don’t curse, and him wanting the artists to be in the studio together to vibe when we do it. Even like Patti Labelle cooking some fried fish, collard greens, and mac-n-cheese and bringing it to the studio and we sit there and eat and go into the booth and record “Feels Like Another One.”
CrypticRock.com – Right, well there is a certain sincerity of the music when everyone is doing something like that, a closeness. Like you said, it is real.
Big Daddy Kane – You take, for example, “Platinum Plus” with Big L, I think that we both had phenomenal verses on that song. However, L’s verse was an old rhyme of his because he was no longer with us. Now imagine if me and that brother was in the studio together at the same time that day, what we could have came up with, just feeding off of each other.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it would have been interesting.
Big Daddy Kane – Cause all I did was really lay a new verse down and then on the chorus, say the same rhymes that L’s man, C-Town, had said, I just said them over. Imagine, had me and his brother been in the studio together.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it would have felt much more authentic because you would have been working together and feeding off one another, like you said. What I wanted to ask you next is that, you have also been involved as an actor in film. You actually recently had a film, out in January, that you starred with Keanu Reeves, Exposed. What inspired you to get involved in acting?
Big Daddy Kane – Honestly, I had a teeny little role in this movie called Gunmen (1993) with Mario Van Peebles and Christopher Lambert. My dumbass messed around and bought an Icee in Mexico, not thinking. I was avoiding the water, but I bought an Icee, not realizing an Icee is water, and got sick on the set. Like throwing up, vomiting, like super-sick on the set. In my scene, they had me smoking a cigarette, and that was making matters worse. After we got through, Mario said, “Yo, for someone who never acted before, you were very professional. I could see the pain in your face while we were waiting, and as soon as we said action, you just erased all that and went straight into character. Whenever we say cut, you run off and go to the bathroom and throw up or whatever you are doing in there. I think that you are very professional. I wrote a Western with a part for Wesley Snipes, but he’s asking too much money. I think you’d be perfect for it.” He made me really believe in myself that I could actually do this.
CrypticRock.com – It started something special because you have done a few films since then. As mentioned, Exposed just came out in January via Lionsgate. How did that project come about for you?
Big Daddy Kane – This gentleman, Gee Linton, he was the original director of the movie. He had his people reach out to me about coming in to read for this part. He kept expressing that he really wanted me to do this part. I came in and read. In my mind, I’m feeling that if you really want me then what the hell am I reading for? Why wouldn’t you send me the papers and I sign off, make it happen. Then I found out what it was. I guess the movie company, they really wanted to use Charlie Murphy. He wanted to, I guess, prove his point that I would be the perfect fit. He had me come in and read. Then he reached out like a week later and said, “Yeah, you got the part.”
CrypticRock.com – Did you enjoy working on the film after all that?
Big Daddy Kane – Yeah, it was great working on the film. I had not done anything in a hot minute, it was great getting my feet wet again. Also, there were a lot of young actors in the film. Really talking with them and seeing their ambition and their drive as far as wanting to be actors, I thought was beautiful. Also working with Keanu, that’s a very serious focus actor there. Like we were on set and having a conversation and he was like “You still do music?” I’m like, “Yeah, I got a show with Foxwoods next week.” He asked, “Is it just you?” I said, “No, it’s me and 8 other acts. We do stuff like this on a regular.” We were just talking and they were like, “Up in 5,” and he’d just walk away from me. He never said, “I’ll talk to you later.” He just gave me that serious look while we are on the set in scenes together like he’s mad at me and you’d think I killed his partner. He gave me that look. He went right back into character and just walked away from me, like he was mad at me. Very professional, serious about his role. I was like, “That’s dope, that’s hot.” I learned a lot from him.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a pretty cool experience, hopefully you will have some new roles coming up in the future. Do you have anything lined up, any possibilities?
Big Daddy Kane – There’s another film coming out this year that I did with Lorenzo Lamas called Movie Madness; it’s an Action Thriller. I have a short part in this one, I just play a police captain. We have that and then we are going to start working on something at the end of the year I believe, a Comedy.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, these are all things to look forward to. Obviously, since you have worked in film, you are probably a fan of films yourself. CrypticRock.com covers all areas of music as well as movies, particularly Horror and Sci-fi. If you are a fan of Horror or Sci-fi, do you have any favorites?
Big Daddy Kane – Absolutely. Horror, Phantasm II (1988) would be my number 1. Jason is my man, I love Jason to death. The first A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was scary as hell, but Phantasm II is the only time I can actually say I was a grown-ass man scared to stay in the crib by myself.
After I saw that movie, the girl I went to see it with, she wanted to go home and I was trying to be cool. I know she thought I wanted some, honestly, that wasn’t the case. I just didn’t feel like going back to that apartment by my damn self. I am telling her you could sleep in the bed, I’ll sleep on the floor. I honestly didn’t want to go home alone. It scared the shit out of me. I saw the first one, it was scary, but it didn’t mess me up like part two with the little dwarf things jumping out of closets and the dead husband after he had been embalmed lying in bed next to his wife. It was just a bit much.
CrypticRock.com – Many remember when that film came out. The Tall Man, Angus Scrimm, recently just passed away. He lived a long life to the age of ninety. He was definitely creepy as that character in Phantasm.
Big Daddy Kane – I saw an interview with him a few years ago where they were trying to get Hollywood to do another one. Reggie Bannister told the crowd, “I promise you there will be another Phantasm,” and Angus Scrimm looked at him and said, “Well you better hurry up if you want me to be in it.” When I heard that he passed, I was like damn man, wow.
CrypticRock.com – It is sad because, outside of film, he was actually a very sweet man. Many said he was a really down to earth guy. He lived a long life and he did get to make one last Phantasm set for release in the near future called Phantasm: Ravager.
Big Daddy Kane – Beautiful. That was one of those movies that I was a big fan of. Some of the sequels I didn’t really care for, but I still messed with them just because I was a fan of the first two, and the franchise, period. That’s one of those Horror flicks that affected me. My most favorite Romantic movie is a Horror movie, Blacula (1972). I like it more on the Romantic side than I do on the Horror side, when you think about the ending scene. Here’s a situation with Vampires underground, there’s no daylight nowhere around. What can you possibly do to them? You gotta ground zero that spot to even get to them. He can sit there and kill y’all for days, but because you staked his woman in the heart, he would rather just walk off into the sunlight on his own and die, because you took his only reason for living.
CrypticRock.com – Right, there is definitely a romantic value to that. It is hard to believe that film was made in ’72 now. It seems much like Hip Hop; a lot of the classic Horror films were made about 20-30 years ago.
Big Daddy Kane – Wow, that’s an interesting way to look at it.
CrypticRock.com – It depends on someone’s tastes, it just seems like the older stuff is so much better.
Big Daddy Kane – There were a few new ones that I enjoyed. I like The Descent (2006), and there is also a Japanese Horror called They Wait (2007). Those were two scary movies, modern Horror, that I enjoyed.
4/8/16 – The Emporium Patchogue, NY
4/16/16 – Crown Plaza Columbus North Columbus, OH
4/23/16 – Tom Joyner Cruise Carnival Cruise
4/30/16 – Fair Park Coliseum Festival Dallas, TX
5/7/16 – Richmond Coliseum Richmond, VA
6/3/16 – Keith Sweat Festival Montego Bay
6/4/16 – BWI Marriott(Capital Jazz Festival After-party) Baltimore, MD
6/10/16 – Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Norfolk, VA
7/8/16 – Trapp Auditorium Waukegan, IL
7/9/16 – Wolf Creek Amphitheater Atlanta, GA
7/22/16 – PNC Music Pavillion Charlotte, NC
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Feature top banner photograph credit: Jonathan Minnion