Big Daddy Kane made it look easy in the '80s.
His songs such as "Ain't No Half Steppin'," "Smooth Operator" and "Lean on Me" were groundbreaking for their intricate wordplay and intense yet nonchalant vocals. His lyrics moved crowds of guys who dug his flow and girls who wanted to get to know the MC also known as Dark Gable.
Kane eventually chose to satisfy his devoted female following — which included Madonna, who featured him in her "Sex" book — with his later material, and after a while the hits stopped coming. But Kane hasn't. Backed by a live band, Kane, 46, now performs for two generations of fans: those who remember his debut album, "Long Live the Kane," and those who know him from his low-resolution videos on YouTube.
Style asked the legendary rapper about the difference between making songs and building a career, as well as what inspires his live show and his backing band, Las Supper.
Style: You're known for your great live shows. I remember seeing you in the Richmond Coliseum when you came out with the hot tub.
Kane: [Laughs] Yeah. That was back in 1990, something like that.
So much time has passed since then, how do you keep up the intensity?
It's something that l learned from Doug E. Fresh back in 1986. He was showing me where he got his ideas and concepts from, and it was from Earth, Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd. I'm like "Wow, you thinkin' way out of the hip-hop box." That's something that I always try to do. I started getting inspirations from like, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Barry White. Just thinking out of the box, stuff that another MC wouldn't do.
Tell me about your live band.
The Las Supper, they're a group of musicians out of New York that's extremely talented. Young cats that have a very, very soulful flavor. I enjoy working with them and I hope that one day that I can help them achieve the success that they deserve. I still perform with my DJ, Scaz Digga. It's a live show, but it's still hip-hop. [The] DJ is a hip-hop element, so it gotta be there.
It's seems that hip-hop has regressed, at least lyrically, from your era. What's your take on where things are?
It's not MCin' anymore. It's making songs. That's what people are doing now. They're making songs. They're not MCin'. Nobody's gettin' on there trying to say some incredible rhymes that you want to rewind or listen to again, or say to your boy at school tomorrow. They just want to sing the hook. My concern with that is it's not really building the artist. It's like you're becoming a fan of a song, not a fan of the person. You like this song, but you don't want to hang a poster of this person in your bedroom. You like this song, but you cool with your man givin' you a copy. Or downloadin' for free, a copy. Instead of saying, "I'm gonna buy this for real on iTunes." No one really has that mentality about artists anymore, 'cause they're really just into the song, not the artist as person.
Is there any new material on the way?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, nothin' like that [laughs]. S
"Masters of Ceremony: Hip Hop Reunion" with DMX, EPMD, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Special Ed, Biz Markie and Naughty by Nature takes place at the Richmond Coliseum on Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $57-$102. ticketmaster.com.