Big Daddy Kane, born Antonio Hardy on September 10, 1968, in Bedford Stuyvesant, is widely considered one of the most skilled MCs and charismatic entertainers in hip-hop.
Not only was he a gifted lyricist, but he was also a class act, always dressed “to the nines,” effectively changing the face of hip hop fashion. In fact, many would argue that Big Daddy Kane was the reigning sex symbol/icon of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.
Kane cited two influences that inspired his stage name: “The Kane part came from my fascination with the martial arts flicks when I was young,” said Kane. “The Big Daddy part came from the name of a character Vincent Price played in the film Beach Party.”
He started his career in 1986 as a member of the rap group the Juice Crew. As a Juice Crew member, he quickly became known for his fast-rhyming skill, unique use of aliteration, magnetic stage presence and gift for wooing the ladies.
In 1988, Kane released his first album Long Live the Kane, which featured the hit “Ain’t No Half Steppin.” The following year, in 1989, he released his second album and biggest hit to date “It’s a Big Daddy Thing,” which included 1970s sample throwbacks like “Smooth Operator” and the Teddy Riley-produced track “I Get the Job Done,” which hit the R&B top 40 during the closing of the 1980s.
Through the early part of the 90s, Kane collaborated on a number of artists album, including Kool G Rap, Masta Ace and Craig G. And in 1991, Kane won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his performance on the Quincy Jones collaborative track “Back on the Block” off of Back on the Block.
Kane also is known for helping Jay-Z early on in his career. “He basically made cameo appearances on stage,” said Kane. “When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay-Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage.” Jay-Z was also featured on Big Daddy Kane’s track ‘Show & Prove’ from Daddy’s Home (1994), as well as in the video.
By the late 90s Kane’s career began winding down. In the early 2000’s he released two singles, the Alchemist-produced “The Man, The Icon”, and the DJ Premier-produced “Any Type of Way.” Throughout the 2000s, he made dozens of cameo appearances on stage, at awards shows and on the albums of popular rappers, including A Tribe Called Quest, Jurassic 5 and Little Brother, all of whom continued to give reverence to Kane as a true icon and trailblazer in hip-hop.
Proving that he is a full entertainer and that he is a man of many talents, Kane has also made a few appearances on the big screen in the movies “Posse” “Meteor Man” “Dead Heist” “Brown Sugar” and “Gunmen,” and he contributed music to a handful of movie soundtracks.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked his song “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” #25 on its list of The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, calling him “a master wordsmith of rap’s late-golden age and a huge influence on a generation of MCs.” He also received a VH1 Hip Hop Honor in 2005.
MTV place Kane at #7 in its Greatest MCs Of All Time list; in Kool Moe Dee’s book There’s A God On The Mic: The True 50 Greatest MCs, Kane ranked #4; and About.com ranked him #3 on its list of the “Top 50 MCs of Our Time.
Today Kane continues to tour and appear on television, performing much of his old hits with the same level of magnetism and lyrical agility, reminding the newer generation of hip hop artists what a true stage performance should look like.
In 2018, Kane received the key to the borough of Brooklyn and was inducted to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Celebrity Path, Brooklyn’s Walk of Fame.
Big Daddy Kane, we honor lyrical skill and your overall indelible contribution as a unique force in hip-hop yesterday, today and tomorrow.
February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile one Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites — past and present — who have contributed to America’s fabric as pioneers or leaders in art, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present to you 28! Click here to see all of the profiles.
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