Born Antonio M. Hardy, September 10, 1968, in Brooklyn, NY. Religion: Member of the black Muslim sect the Five Percent Nation. Addresses: Record company-- Cold Chillin' Records, Inc., 1966 Broadway, Suite #47, New York, NY 10023-7001.
Quintessential rapper Big Daddy Kane captures the gritty realism of urban street life in his music while, at the same time, offering a hopeful message of humor and self-determination. Kane drew his inspiration from rap pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kool Moe Dee. He credits his development as a lyricist and performer to his friendships with rappers Biz Markie, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante, and other early rappers he met at the Queensbridge Project in Queens, NY. Kane rode to rap stardom on the swelling tidal wave of tough, angry, urban rappers, which ultimately led to the much-publicized ascendancy of Public Enemy. After Public Enemy struck the mother lode of mainstream success, dozens of new urban rappers--including Kane--were ushered in to carry the baton.
Born Antonio M. Hardy on September 10, 1968, in Brooklyn, NY, Kane is a native of the rough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He met his first mentor, Biz Markie--the "Clown Prince" of rap--in downtown Brooklyn in 1984; Markie and other rappers were mounting a recording session outside of McCurry's department store. Kane was impressed with Markie's outrageous sense of humor, performance style, and gregariousness, and the two became fast friends. They were soon performing together at local high schools. Through Markie, Kane met Marley Marl and Roxanne Shante, among other up-and-coming rap artists. In 1985, when Shante emerged as the "Queen of Rap," Kane went on the road with her as a disc jockey, eventually writing some of her best-known material. Kane was also writing hits for the Juice Crew and Kurtis Blow at this time and even worked briefly with funk master Rick James.
After touring with Shante, Kane started working closely with Marl on recording sessions for Shante, Markie, and other rappers under the aegis of Cold Chillin' Records. The staff of Cold Chillin' was sufficiently enamored of Kane's songwriting ability to sign him on as an artist in his own right in 1987. The name "Kane" was adopted in 1982, but "Big Daddy" wasn't tacked on until 1985. A close friend jokingly referred to Kane as "Big Daddy"; Kane loved the sound of it and has sported the nickname as his professional tag ever since. Near the end of 1987 Kane and Marl spent a few weeks working on Kane's debut album, Long Live the Kane. The album sold well, and on the strength of its sales and the hit single "Ain't No Half Steppin'," Kane began touring the U.S., performing with rap acts Stetsasonic and Doug E. Fresh.
In January of 1990 Kane recorded a second album, It's a Big Daddy Thing, which featured the hits "Smooth Operator" and the lauded "I Get the Job Done." A string of coast-to-coast tour dates followed, Kane sharing the stage with rap giants Public Enemy and L.L. Cool J. Kane self-produced his third album, Taste of Chocolate, with some help from Prince Paul, who had served as producer for rap trio De La Soul. Taste of Chocolate proved funkier than Kane's previous albums, and featured a posse of special guests, including the inimitable, heavy-breathing 1970s soul crooner Barry White, and the daughter of black activist leader Malcolm X.
Kane's style of rap belongs to a hard-edged school that reflects life on the street. "Pimpin' Ain't Easy" and "Calling Mr. Welfare," from the It's a Big Daddy Thing LP, are just two showcases for Kane's knowing, razor-sharp lyrics. But Kane is never far from humor either; he infuses many of his songs with his particular brand of wry, subtle wit. Kane relishes a clever play on words, as displayed in his classic dance hit, "I Get The Job Done." The song's chest-thumping beat builds to a rich crescendo while Kane's smooth lyrics buttress its high-energy pace and good-natured bravado.
To some, Kane's sartorial style typifies the upscale urban rapper: He sports white suits, enormous gold medallions and heavy link chains, fedoras, chunky gold and diamond rings, and a "Cameo flattop" hairstyle; his public appearances often feature a bevy of attractive, near-nude, fawning women who flank the rapper, suggestively stroking him periodically. The message his image presents is also evinced in Kane's first three albums: Big Daddy is clearly savoring the good life, which many feel is warranted by Kane's unique raps.
What sets Kane apart from other rap artists is the cleverness of his powerful "boasts"--one of the mainstays of rap lyrics. His rhyming style is solid and tightly woven; Kane also makes good use of familiar "samples," borrowed riffs from other well-known artists like James Brown and Public Enemy. With Prince of Darkness, Kane expanded his repertoire with sophisticated balladry and more actual singing, as opposed to rapping. Kane was quoted in a 1991 Cold Chillin' press release as saying, "I wanted to do songs that would appeal to both men and women. I think rap is still the strongest force in black music today, and it's moving straight ahead, but it's also expanding to take in lots of other styles."
While still in junior high school, Kane was introduced to a black Muslim sect, popular among rappers, called the Five Percent Nation. As an adult, Kane became a member of the sect at the behest of Rakim, a rapper he respects and admires. Kane points to Rakim's early influence on him as an example of how rap artists can inspire rap fans to better themselves. As a member of the Five Percent Nation, Kane tries to educate listeners about world affairs and their relevance to blacks. However, he has at times been criticized for seemingly contradicting his faith by extolling the virtues of materialism, hedonism, and sex appeal. Kane fueled this fire by posing partially nude in a June 1991 issue of Playgirl magazine. He responded to his detractors by telling The Source' s Chris Wilder: "I may make a political song. I may make a heritage song. Then again, I may make 'Pimpin' Ain't Easy,' I have fun with my music because of the simple fact that that's what music is about; music is for enjoyment. And nobody wants to hear about problems all of the time."
In 1988, when Kane was just starting to burn in the firmament of rap, observer Martin Starkey commented in The Ticker, "The man can rap to any beat with a skill that hasn't been attempted or done since Kool Moe Dee and early L.L. Cool J. But while L.L. Cool J. relied upon a steady, relentless thrashing of lyrics, and Moe Dee upon a low baritone syncopation of rhyming words with strong, soundalike endings, Big Daddy Kane is simply a word manipulator. He does things to words that will make you stop, marvel, and wonder how he does it." Starkey went on to presage, "There is a new King of Rap in town, and long live the Kane."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Big Daddy Kane's Career
Began career as DJ for Roxanne Shante, eventually writing material for her, the Juice Crew, and Kurtis Blow; signed to Cold Chillin' Records, Inc. and released first LP, Long Live the Kane, 1987.
- Selective Works
- Long Live the Kane Cold Chillin' Records, 1987.
- It's a Big Daddy Thing Cold Chillin,' 1990.
- Taste of Chocolate Cold Chillin,' 1991.
- The Prince of Darkness Cold Chillin,' 1991.
- Billboard, January 30, 1988.
- Black Radio Exclusive, December 16, 1988.
- New York Amsterdam News, March 16, 1991.
- New York Times, July 15, 1988.
- Playgirl, June 1991.
- Soul Underground, February 1988.
- Source, March/April 1991.
- Strictly Hip-Hop, August 1988.
- Ticker, August 30, 1988.
- Other source material was gathered from an October, 1991, Cold Chillin' Records, Inc. press release.
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