“It’s ’88, time to set it straight, you know what I’m sayin’? It ain’t no half steppin’…”
In 1988, Big Daddy Kane finessed his way into the golden era of hip-hop with his debut classic album Long Live the Kane. From his early beginnings as a member of the legendary Juice Crew, Kane commanded attention like a vet in such a way that when I first saw his first video for “Ain’t No Half Steppin’”, I thought that perhaps he had been around for a minute and I was just late. 1988 was the year I really started paying attention to hip-hop. It has often been argued as being hip-hop’s best year and it’s a legitimate argument. Also dropping that year were classic albums by EMPD, Public Enemy, NWA, and MC Lyte. It was also the year that a brand new show called Yo! MTV Raps would take the world by storm and turn artists who were only seeing success underground into household names.
Big Daddy Kane (also known as Dark Gable as he goes by on Twitter), has always been one of the slickest emcees on the mic. However he’s never been too slick to the point where his flow doesn’t hit you right between the eyes. A “Smooth Operator” one minute but completely “Raw” the next, Kane hit a sweet spot pretty early in his career that doesn’t happen too easily: The fellas wanted to be like him and the ladies wanted to be with him. The fellas emulated his style by rocking high top fades and cuts in their eyebrows while trying to emulate his rapid-fire lyricism in songs like “Set It Off” and “Raw”. The women (and girls like me with posters of him in their school lockers) swooned over him when he showed his romantic Casanova side in songs like “Smooth Operator” and “I Get the Job Done”. And who can forget those dance routines he rocked with the best backup dancers ever in the game, Scoob and Scrap Lover holding him down in videos like “Lean On Me”?
Kane has always been and still is to this very day, the consummate entertainer. I should know. While ’88 was a very good year in hip hop, there are only a handful of artists from the Golden Era that have been able to still draw audiences and rock crowds with just as much energy as back in the day. Big Daddy Kane still wows his fans with the same rapid wordplay, grown man swag, and hi-energy dance moves that have made so many of us love him from the jump. He has influenced pretty much every emcee in the game like Common, Jay-Z, and too many others to name. He’s the standard for staying true to his craft, a true living legend, and in almost 30 years, has often been imitated but never, ever duplicated. Long Live the Kane indeed.