Big Daddy Kane is one of the most revered artists in hip-hop, but, in a recent interview with RO, Kane explained why he feels that change is necessary and why he switched up his approach on his latest project, The Las Supper, a joint venture with the live band Get Lifted. Despite the classic hip-hop ethos of “two-turntables and a microphone,” Kane says performing and recording with a live band has completely freed him creatively.
“There’s so much more stuff that you can do [with a band] and I’ve learned a lot of great things throughout the years from Patti Labelle, Bobby Womack, the Manhattans—with a band, you can break the track down, give band members solos—there’s so many directions you can go,” says Kane. The new approach breathes new life into his classic catalog. “‘Ain’t No Half Steppin’’ probably lasts twelve minutes on stage. It takes it to another level. You’re not just hearing what you heard on your CD, you’re hearing something broader.”
His broader approach combines vintage soul with classic hip-hop and Kane reveals that the seeds for Las Supper were sown when he attended two seemingly different shows at a club in North Carolina, where he currently resides. “I went to this club in North Carolina and saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform,” he recalls. “Just looking at the demographics of the audience, I thought it was interesting. A few weeks later, I was at the same spot to see Talib Kweli perform. And 60-70 percent of the crowd were the same people. It made me understand that people who loved that vintage soul sound loved that classic hip hop sound, too.”
Love of classic hip-hop seems to be bittersweet these days. There is a slight stigma attached to rappers the public deems “old school”–a vague term that Kane feels is more pejorative than honorary.
“A lot of publications and radio refer to artists as ‘old school artists,'” he says, with some understandable frustration. “You never hear a country-western station saying ‘We have old school artist Willie Nelson in the house.’ They say ‘We have the legendary Willie Nelson,'” he explains. “R&B stations don’t say ‘We have old school artist Ronald Isley in the house.’ They say ‘We have the legendary Ronald Isley.’ But if I come do an interview, they’re gonna say ‘We have old school rapper Big Daddy Kane in the house.’ We belittle ourselves, our music and our culture. It’s hard for a lot of legendary artists in hip-hop to overcome.”
Kane acknowledges that some artists do fail to continue to push themselves creatively, and the genre tends to move on. But he feels that there are other artists, like himself, who are still doing great things. But the media ignores it.
“A lot of [hip-hop] artists from the generation before mine did fall off,” Kane concedes. “But a lot of artists still put on a great show and they’re still relevant in hip-hop—just not to hip-hop.”