When: January 24th, 2013
If you don't know Big Daddy Kane, you don't know hip hop. Period. His impact on the art of rocking the mic is monumental. His first three albums helped popularize the genre and opened the door for every MC who has come since. This is a man who once performed a "Ladies Only" sold out show at the Apollo. This is the man who got Jay-Z into the game. This is the guy whose style was so undeniable that he showed hip hop's potential to crossover without ever selling out. This is the MC who was tough as hell, but not too cool to dance. This is the rapper Madonna wanted to sleep with when she could have her pick. This is the MC every other MC respects and loves. Seriously, try to find a hip hop fan who doesn't smile when his name is mentioned. Big Daddy was, and is, the shit.
Kane's music played a huge role in the trajectory of my life. I spent years writing rhymes and making hip hop, and it all grew from my love of BDK back in the day. His blend of humor, intelligence, strength, confidence, and positivity inspired me in the lyrics I wrote and how I carried myself. God knows how many MCs he's spawned. Big Daddy indeed.
It was a packed house at B.B.'s when I arrived. Everyone was pumped to see a legend. Shit, even the bathroom attendant was bopping his head to the classics the DJ was spinning. As I gave him a dollar for handing me a paper towel he shared his joy that Kane was in the building. Clearly, this was a crowd ready to give back some of the joy they'd gotten from BDK's music over the years.
His band took the stage first. Shockingly, they were all young and white. I mean clouds in the summer sky white. And they were all wearing white T shirts. Huh? Once they started playing though, I stopped squinting and worrying. They sounded tight. Out came Big Daddy, rocking jeans and a matching denim vest. Cries of "We love you!" and "Smooth Operator" were met with a sly smile and hand shake. In fact, the first couple of minutes were nothing but him working his way along the front, hugging fans and touching their outstretched hands. He even signed some autographs. This was all before he'd even spit a verse.
For the next hour, Big Daddy rocked the stage to the joy of the crowd. He ran through all the big hits, acknowledging "I know what you want to hear. I'm gonna give you what you paid for." Throughout his set he seemed deeply moved by the love and support. I got the sense that at 44 years of age, Big Daddy, whose real name is Antonio Hardy, has the deep appreciation for life's blessings that only come with aging. His entire set was incredibly intimate. Songs didn't bleed into one another. He'd finish and then relax, sipping water and interacting with fans. One time a woman yelled out how fly he was. He laughed and thanked her. He had a conversation with a woman he went to high school with who was up front, telling her to say hi to her cousin. A request to play "Wrath of Kane" was turned down. He told the guy, "You ain't killing me tonight, my man. I'm up here 44 years old with asthma. That shit'll put me in the grave." But in the end, he fulfilled the request. Which sums up the show for me. He wanted nothing more than to put a smile on everyone's face.
When the show ended, I stayed around for a while to finish the healthy pour of bourbon I'd gotten from the bartender. Struck up a conversation with a super sweet mother and daughter from the Bronx who were waiting in hopes he'd come out and talk to the fans. I was hoping for the same thing, but when I saw the crowd of people go backstage after his set, I knew he was swamped with old friends. He lives in North Carolina now with his wife, so he's not always in town. While I didn't score a photo with Kane, I did snag his set list from the front of the stage:
You'll see the last song is Raw, which I still know every lyric to, having etched it in my young mind years ago from countless listens. At one point of that last song he smiled when he saw me rhyming along. It was a full circle moment for me. Big Daddy blasted out of my boombox in upstate New York when I was a middle school kid fascinated with hip hop and the big city. Now, 25 years later I was rapping along with him as a grown man who has lived in the city for over a decade. This was a special show for me. Had a blast. Didn't get home til after 3, got up for work at 7, and smiled through the day. Long live the Kane!