Perhaps the closest equivalent to steroid-enabled performance enhancement available for the competitive lyricist is the mind-expanding mellow of marijuana. But even that could hardly be said to give Big Daddy Kane a leg up in the 1980s-era New York’s fledgling freestyle scene. An asthmatic, Kane emerged from Brooklyn as one of hip-hop’s most formidable rap battlers despite his respiratory disadvantage. A pioneer of the “call-and-response song” (that’s “diss track” to us young folk), Big Daddy Kane quickly gained renown for his unequaled ability to deliver pulverizing rhyme schemes with rapid-fire finesse.
But, as a recently unearthed clip from the vaults of English DJ Tim Westwood testifies, Kane’s microphone alchemy wasn’t kept locked away in hip-hop’s Golden Age. Dated from 2000, the footage sourced from Westwood’s YouTube channel sees Big Daddy Kane weave lessons for “first time felons” through fellow East Coast veteran Prodigy’s “Keep It Thoro” instrumental. “Got out the game and had to get right back in,” Kane trumpets from the get-go, and by the end of the two-minute-long salvo an exasperated Tim Westwood is heard exhaling an awe-inspired, “oh baby…”
Most widely recognized for his affiliation with the Queensborough-based Juice Crew and his early releases on their Cold Chillin’ Records imprint, Big Daddy Kane had by 2000 hit a commercial plateau. But, as evidenced by the exhumed clip, the battle-hardened MC’s artistic prowess was far from restricted to his celebrated Long Live the Kane and It’s a Big Daddy Thing classic LPs, released in 1988 and 1989 respectively. In the same year that Kane descended upon Westwood’s studio, the rapper delivered bristling guest verses on Big L’s second, and tragically final, album The Big Picture on the track “Platinum Plus”; and appeared alongside KRS-One and Kool G Rap on “Class of ‘87,” off producer Tony Touch’s A-list-studded The Piece Maker.
Big Daddy Kane’s profile rides low today, but his influence spans reverberates throughout far reaches of the globe. The fabled MC is currently touring the UK and Europe, making his way from Whitstable, England to Wil, Switzerland before returning for a brief US run.