July 15, 2008

My Gut Reaction: Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane (June 21, 1988)

My longtime two readers might find themselves staring at the title of this post and shouting to nobody in particular, "What the fuck?!" Normally, I would have the same reaction: how can something be considered for a My Gut Reaction post if it came out twenty fucking years ago? It's a simple explanation, really. For those of you that peruse the comments that other readers leave (which I sometimes respond to), you may recall a while back when I mentioned that I had never actually heard any Big Daddy Kane albums ever. Never ever. Is that the sound of my hip hop credibility being thrown into the wood chipper? Hell no it isn't, because I'm man enough to admit that there are albums within the history of our chosen genre that I simply never listened to, unlike some other bloggers that pretend that they have heard everything under the sun. However, I'm taking the viewpoint of a newbie in the hip hop game, someone whose only exposure to rap music is what is played on the radio and what I write about on my blog (there are a couple of you out there), who has heard of some of the so-called "living legends" but have never had the opportunity to hear any material by them. As such, I found a copy of Big Daddy Kane's debut, Long Live The Kane.

So, how in the hell did Max avoid Big Daddy Kane, you may ask? Well, I'm not oblivious, if that's what you're wondering. My introduction to hip hop started with the West Coast (to which you may then ask, "Why does Max have such a bias toward the East Coast when he started in the West?"), and I made the transition to New York rap after liking what I had heard. I knew about the Juice Crew, and, in fact, have albums from some of the other members of the clique, but never paid attention to Kane's back catalog (even though I found him to be a beast on the mic). I just never bothered with Kane, simply because there was/is a lot of music out there, and the next time Kane appeared in my subconscious was around the time he appeared in Madonna's Sex book, which drained my interest completely. (Vanilla Ice also appeared in that book, making that project the seventy-fourth instance of how working with Robert Van Winkle, no matter how inadvertent, will ruin your career, unless you name happens to be "Madonna".)

Kane's career tapered off at that point, but he popped up sporadically early on in the new millennium, with hard-hitting cameos that proved that he sounded as good as ever. With that, I officially became interested again, but it took me until now to find the disc around my way, since I try not to pay full retail for anything, and was unable to find it used anywhere. I suppose that should have been a good sign.

Long Live The Kane was produced in full by Marley Marl, and found lots of success in hip hop circles upon its initial release. Five of the ten tracks on here also appear on a Big Daddy Kane Greatest Hits compilation, if that's any indication of how good the album sounds.

And it's not.

Probably because they pop up so infrequently, I tend to automatically like albums that skip the unnecessary rap album intro, although that business move does not a good album make. The beat is made up of sampled drums and scratches. That's all. Kane goes off for nearly five fucking minutes, and other than the corny Tony the Tiger reference near the beginning (which probably sounded corny even in 1988), I found myself appreciating the music's simplicity, which nicely contrasted with Kane's boasts, which are anything but simple.

Marley Marl, who also produced the original version of "Raw", essentially keeps the same beat, but adds a couple more elements to it (namely, the narration sample), and Kane drops a brand new first verse, while the remaining three verses were all part of the original song. That's right, kids, Kane spits four verses over this instrumental. These days, the kids usually spit one-and-a-half verses and fill in the gaps by commanding people to dance to whatever crappy moves they choreographed themselves while high on kush. I prefer the original version, since it's more to the point, but I appreciate the fact that Kane dropped some new lyrics.

I had already known that Ghostface Killah swiped this monster of a beat for Theodore Unit's "'88 Freestyle", but had never heard the source material until today. Now, I consider Ghost to be one of the better emcees performing today, but Kane proves that the beat belonged to him by demolishing this motherfucker. Good show.

This slow jam is unnecessary as fuck. What the hell were Marley Marl and Big Daddy Kane thinking?

So many references to flattops, so little time. This shit is just funny, but that's the point: it comes off as Kane and Scoob Lover just saying random shit to make each other laugh, kind of like those Saturday Night Live performers that feel they haven't done their job unless they make a fellow cast member crack up while performing live on stage. Speaking of which: Jimmy Fallon? Never really funny. In my opinion, he always broke character while on SNL because he was a shitty actor, not because his cast mates were trying to make him laugh. But I'm getting off track.

If I'm not mistaken, this was the most popular of the songs released from Long Live The Kane. I can see why: it's the most radio-friendly joint on here, simply because there's somewhat of a melody to be heard, and ladies could dance to this shit pretty easily. Don't take that "radio-friendly" tag to mean that the song is weak, though: Marley Marl did his thing here, and Kane sounds as good as he has on the album so far (with the exception of that horrid "The Day You're Mine").

A pretty liberal sampling of the Staple Singers song of the same name: Kane may as well have just inserted the original song onto this album, since it comes off as rapping while the song plays in the background anyway. I wasn't really feeling this one.

Hey, my two readers! Remember the write-up for Def Squad's El Nino? Their track "Rhymin' With Biz" was a direct homage to this track, which sounds exactly the same as that more recent song (which basically means that Erick Sermon, himself a well-known producer of old-school rap hits, can also be a pretty good mimic). Truth be told, I preferred The Biz to Kane, but I actually liked the Def Squad version more, since Kane's lyrics sound like he was too close to the microphone and nobody bothered to clean up the distortion prior to Long Live The Kane's release.

The mandatory track that paid respects to Kane's deejay, DJ Mister Cee, who, up until the time that he assisted in the recording of Long Live The Kane, worked at Airborne Express. That's quite a career shift, if you ask me. The fact that Mister Cee had something to do with breaking The Notorious B.I.G. to the hip hop world, though, cements his place in the Hall of Fame.

It would seem that "Mister Cee's Master Plan" would have been a proper album outro, but we're left with one final song, Big Daddy Kane's Afrocentric song, which was all the rage in the 1980's. The lyrics aren't as boastful as the rest of the album, but it proves that Kane wasn't all about talking shit. All in all, not bad at all.

THE LAST WORD: Well, don't I feel like an ass. Long Live The Kane is almost consistently entertaining (but "The Day You're Mine" is godawful). Marley Marl's production is pretty classic (rap fans will find a lot of musical moments on this disc that more recent artists have co-opted), and Big Daddy Kane was a revelation in his time, I'm sure, but he still sounds better than most of the newer rappers today. All in all, this shit is pretty good, and is highly recommended to literally everyone in the world. However, kids, be forewarned: just because there is no 'Parental Advisory' sticker on the album cover doesn't mean that Kane and company are family-friendly: you may not want to give this to Grandma for Christmas (unless she's an extremely cool grandmother).



  1. Hey Max! Been reading your blog for a few months now and this is my first time posting.

    Your Jimmy Fallon comment was made me want to post. I completely agree with you, Jimmy Fallon was never really funny to me, he always broke character and not because the other castmates made him laugh. His movies did bad too and so I heard...

    Anyways, nice review! I've heard of Big Daddy Kane but never listened to him. Definitely gonna check him out! Thanks

  2. What the....you've never listened.....How could you not have....huh?????

    Max, you phony son of a biscuit eater. WE BELIEVED IN YOU!!!!!!!!

    It's all good bro. Keep schooling these cats. About a year ago, I finally purchased Grandaddy IU's first album and I've known about the dude since the late 80's. While he can't lyrically compete with Kane, Kool G, etc., he served with these brothers and that makes him a minor legend in my book.

    Now, GIVE US THE CHRONIC!!!!!!

  3. Props Max For:

    1. Admitting you have not heard every album that is considered classic in the Blogopshere (It is the first step towards recovery)

    2. For not Half-Steppin on the review. This album is dope and there really is no filler (I'll let 4th track slide). This, and his second album, soildify his place as one of the best to spit over the mic.

  4. Big Daddy Kane is a rhyme animal. You never listened to his albums, Max? I wonder why!

    The whole album is great. Kane & Marley Marl, a success formula. Just a view MC's can spit like Kane does. I'm glad you are reviewing old school material, because it's real hip hop from talented cats (MC's and producers either).


  5. The album that defined my high school life and the golden era to me. I never ran faster to the record store to buy a tape than on the day of this release, which I think was the last day of the school year. I have to tell you that listening to this album in 1988, you would let "The Day You're Mine" pass easily because mostly everyone had a song about a girl on their album then. It wasn't an issue at all. Also, "Just Rhymin' With Biz" was made that way intentionally. KRS-One did the same thing on "The Original Way".


  6. Word to John Q ^^

    I love Daddy's style - the way it contrasts to virtually EVERYTHING else released in '88. It makes it so unique, I mean, Public Enemy were on the "It takes a Nation of Millions.." Boogie Down Prod. were on the "By All Means Necessary" and f*cking Big Daddy was on some whole other sh*t! It's immense.

  7. I hopped on the BDK kane fanwaggon after hearing cool operator when dudes flat top ruled in 89, i got the first album after the second...excellent debut, couple bonafide classics and like dude said, after whodini's one love and cool j's i need love, for that era yuh had to have at least one girly joint on the album, and kane has prettymuch always tried to present himself as that smooth ladies dude:the rap counterpoint to the smoothest soulcrooner... heds is arguing between kane or rakim who is more sampled/quoted ...ain't no half stepping and raw have been chopped to death, but i'ma still say Ra.

  8. jimmy fallon and justin timberlake as the Brothers Gibb was funny as fucksakes

  9. When I saw Big Daddy Kane live in 2004 (he was remarkably awesome, BTW -- drunk as hell and he could still spit with intense force and clarity), he closed his set with "Ain't No Half-Steppin;" which incidentally is one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time. During the song's bridge he got the DJ to mix it quiter and quiter and got everyone to slowly crouch down to the floor as he whispered the hook, a la the Isley Brother's "Shout." It was one of the best shows I've ever been to. I have a great polaroid of Kane waiting in line for the bathrooms, wearing a white suit and fedora, holding a champagne bottle, and looking like he's about to fall asleep standing up.

  10. Two things:

    1) If you like this one, run to the record store and buy "It's A Big Daddy Thing." Yes, there is more filler, but it's one of the best albums ever made. The opening track ("It's a Big Daddy Thing") and the second to last track ("Warm it Up, Kane") are the most beautiful bookends in freestyle rap history.

    2) Horatio Sanz was really the travesty of that SNL troupe. Jimmy Fallon was weak, but at least he was laughing at his costars. Horatio was laughing at himself, because nobody else was.

    Oh, and "The Day You're Mine" is a disgrace, but it's not as bad as Kane's "I'm Not Ashamed" (featuring Spinderella!) off of "Prince of Darkness" because by then he should have just fucking known better.

  11. So, I'm a huge Big Daddy Kane fan, even though I have are a few songs I swiped from Pandora, and I have to say, I loved the 3 cuts from this album (Set it Off, On the Bugged Tip, and Raw), although I completely think that the original version of Raw (from the Colors soundtrack) is better since it's more focused.

    Also, On the Bugged Tip is the first song I can remember where the rapper rapped without a beat. Can you point out some earlier examples of that?

  12. I request, nay I DEMAND more juice crew write-ups (esp. Kool G Rap and Masta Ace)

  13. Did you notice Big Daddy Kane gave a shout out to Blahzay Blahzay on the end of Set It Off

  14. Actually I'm pretty sure he was just saying "blase blah," which in rap lingo at the time meant "blah blah blah, etc." Rappers were never really good at the "blase" concept.

  15. This album is a classic. But you chose the Def Squad version of Just Rhymin' With Biz before this one? But anyway, good review. The Day You're Mine was just...horrible.

  16. Raw, Set it Off and Ain't No Half Steppin' are three of the best hip hop songs ever in my opinion, and the first track is solid as well. Everything else on here is funny and entertaining (except for The Day You're Mine of course) but i would never listen to those tracks again. Still, the songs that hold up today are fucking exceptional and prove Kane's place as one of the best MCs ever

  17. Yo man when are we gonna see a review from kane his 90s albums?