Big Daddy Kane Stays Focused on the Positive, Despite Having “Enough” Anger

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Big Daddy Kane performs onstage during #TBT Night Presented By BuzzFeed at Mastercard House on January 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Mastercard)

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Legendary New York City rapper, Big Daddy Kane, is one-of-one. In fact, sticking to originality is the thesis that has taken him through his creative, groundbreaking life, from winning a Grammy to establishing himself as a fashion icon to releasing his latest song, “Enough,” which vocally and viscerally tackles the frustration and anger Kane feels borne from systemic racism and recent examples of police brutality. The emcee, who was born in 1968, has seen a great deal of life, from the rough and tumble city streets to the ins and outs of the at times seedy music business. Nevertheless, despite the sometimes-drastic highs and lows, Kane keeps a positive demeanor and an uplifted outlook with each day.

“The more time I focus on the negative, the less time I have to get results,” Kane says.

Born in the Big Apple, Kane was introduced to music by his parents who would listen to Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and Al Green. He even remembers often singing along often to Gaye’s songs. Later, as hip-hop came into fashion, Kane took to the new form of music. He was part of the younger generation, gravitating to the poetics and nimble lyricism over break beats. He would watch the new emcees at block parties and park jams. Kane observed before he jumped in. As he became more familiar with the musical style, he invested time into language and learning new and surprising words to use when sparring with other rappers.

“I started as a battle rapper,” Kane says. “So, it was very important to me to be more articulate than my competition and also to be able to use vocabulary that a lot of them probably wouldn’t understand.”

For his signature deep, spirited voice, Kane says that “just comes natural.” He was born with a dexterous tongue and bellowing vocals, which helped him double down on his own talent. For it’s what comes natural and what one loves that makes for the best art and artists. Integrity is paramount.

“I try to tell others to make sure that you give your fan base originality and the real you,” Kane says. “Don’t just follow a trend because once the trend is gone, you’re gone.”

Even though trends and fads aren’t Kane’s bread and butter, fashion always has been. Whether rocking giant gold chains, impressive askew hats, bowties, three-piece suits or a freshly buzzed line in his hair, Kane, visually, stands out as much as he does with a mic pressed to his mouth. The desire to look good first arrived in his blossoming mind at an early age, he says. As a young person, he watched the slick looking fellas in his neighborhood garner attention.

“Fashion was important to me ever since I was a kid,” he says. “Hanging out in front of the pool hall or being around the barbershop, seeing the players and the hustlers come around with three- and four-piece suits on with the deuce-and-a-quarter Buicks and the Cadillacs with the white walls, they always looked fly.”

Not shy to show off, Kane, who now lives in the “laid back” town of Raleigh, North Carolina, famously posed for Playgirl and for Madonna’s infamous book, Sex. At the time, this was virtually uncharted territory for a hip-hop musician. But Kane embraced it. For in any gig, whether rapping to thousands, giving a speech or taking super-sexy pictures with the Queen of Pop, you have to do what you have to do to keep the party going.

“Madonna, she was just do down to earth,” Kane says. “She showed me so much love. She’s a pop legend, an icon. It was an honor to do a photo session with her.”

Kane, who first came up in the music game in 1986 with the famous Juice Crew, which also included Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante, Marley Marl and Kool G Rap, is famous for hits like, “Ain’t No Half Steppin” and “Smooth Operator.” For these songs, his fans have long enjoyed rapping along. But for “Enough,” which he released in July, Kane made sure he said what he wanted to say first. He wasn’t making something for the fans in this way, per sé. Rather, he was getting loads of dejected stress off his chest in the wake of more Black men dying at the hands of police. Kane wanted his thoughts and feelings to be heard loud and clear (and for fans to support this organization).

“I wanted people to know how I felt,” Kane says. “I wanted people to hear and understand my views on the racial injustices going on in the country today. This wasn’t a song done to please my fan base. This was a song to let them know how I feel.”

Over the decades, Kane has been a fixture in music. Not only is it a satisfying creative space for him, but it’s a profitable one, too. And, thanks to emcees like Kane, the opportunities for people to pursue hip-hop music as careers have grown exponentially. It’s one of the things the emcee loves most about music today, he says. The chance to better your situation.

“What I love most about music today is the ability to see young Black kids in the ghetto have an opportunity to make something successful out of themselves,” Kane says. “The money that’s in hip-hop today wasn’t there when I first started. To see these young artists be able to put food on the table for their families and live a much better life is the main thing.”

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