Antonio Hardy, better known by his rap moniker Big Daddy Kane is set to headline the All White Concert and Party in metro Detroit over the Labor Day weekend at Freedom Hill’s amphitheater. Joining him will be legendary music greats such as George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic and the P Funk All-Stars, the Mary Jane Girls, Cameo, Whodini and the great rap storyteller himself, Slick Rick. This end of the summer concert will heat up on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016, with doors opening at 4 p.m.
Rolling out got a chance to sit down exclusively with the Smooth Operator himself to discuss his career in the music industry, his key to success, his strategy for longevity in the business, and his plans for the future. Kane also briefly touched on his views of the Black Lives Matter movement and how he wants people to think of him when they hear his name. Get the details and the inside scoop below on one of the hardest working rap innovators we know.
Your career has been expansive and you’ve earned the right to be called rap royalty. You’ve worked with some of the all-time greats, including the late great Barry White, Heavy D and Tupac, to living legends Quincy Jones, and the diva herself, Patti LaBelle. Who are some of your other favorite artists that you’ve worked with in the past?
Well, definitely Barry White, Public Enemy, and MC Lyte. I would love to work with CeeLo Green, Anthony Hamilton, uh yeah, that’s all I can think of offhand. Maybe even Lauryn Hill.
Dead or alive, who would be the ultimate person you would want to collaborate with before you die?
A person I would love to collaborate with before I die dead or alive? Ummm, I would want to collaborate with the inventor of the drug that lets you live forever. I’d love to collab with him before I die! Naw, naw, naw, I don’t know. Yeah, I’d probably say Marvin Gaye.
You’ve been producing albums since 1988 — that’s almost three decades in the business. What’s the key to your longevity and staying power?
I mean, I think that the most important thing you can do is give your fan base and consumers you. They have to feel and understand you. They have to really feel like they have a connection with you as an individual, that’s bigger than any song you made. Because songs get old, new materials come out, the style of music changes. But when someone just loves you as a person, they remain loyal. I think that’s one of the biggest keys.
Describe your brand of music now. Are you still your authentic self or have you evolved over the years?
I would say both. There is what I do that the people love to continue to see, however, music changes, so as music changes you have to stay in tune to what’s going on, evolve with it, but make it yours. You don’t have to sound like no one [sic] else. You have to make it yours. There was a time in the ’90s where I saw a lot of things changing and didn’t understand why people wasn’t [sic] comprehending what I was doing lyrically. And then I had to really sit down and look and see what Biggie was doing, what Method Man was doing, NAS, and I said “oh, these dudes is [sic] high as hell, they rhyming [sic]way behind the beat. People like me, Cool G Rap, we ahead [sic] of the beat. We’re going fast. I gotta slow down, get more in pocket because that’s where they at [sic].” But it was just really a matter of making it me, seeing what’s going on in current hip-hop and making it me. You know, get in where I fit in.
So, what is your take on today’s rap, this new school of rap? How do you feel about that?
Well I mean, you know, with these young cats, I wish them all the best. I mean, I’m glad they’re not on the streets killing or robbing no one. They’ve found a successful music career, so I’m very happy for them. And I wish them all the best. I wish there was more of a connection with the younger generation and with the older generation, just to get an understanding and a blue print of the years of hip-hop, and just continue on with the way that the culture was really structured. I wish they could see that. But I mean, I don’t want to discredit any of them because I’m glad to see them doing something with their life as opposed to killing and robbing on the streets. I mean, a lot of them do need guidance musically.
So, if there was one message that you could get through to today’s generation of younger rappers, what would it be? What one piece of advice would you give them?
I guess what I would get across to them [is this]: what you’re doing now, sit down and think how it’s going to be perceived 25 years from now. Look at the career span of a Stevie Wonder, a Patti LaBelle, Ronald Isley, and Big Daddy Kane, and just ask “how am I going to be seen 25 years from now?”
With that being said, there’s been quite a bit going on with the way the world views Black men. With the climate of today’s society and with the Black Lives Matter movement going on — weigh in on how you feel about the whole movement.
Well, I have three boys. And when I look at what’s going on in the world it scares me. I worry about our safety. We don’t necessarily have to be doing anything wrong, so I really worry about their safety. I think all lives matter, whether you’re Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, whatever. However, I don’t think that everybody else feels the same way that I feel. I think that some people with badges feel that certain lives matter more than others or a certain race of people are more dangerous than others and that’s not the case. So, with Black Lives Matter, I think it’s something important that they’re doing and I commend them and I hope they make the right move and exercise it the right way because what needs to happen is the police need policing. Plain and simple.
Let’s move on to something lighter. Your career not only spans music, you’ve also been in a few movies and TV shows. Are there any plans for any acting in your near future?
Yeah. Well there’s a movie that’s out now, I believe it’s available on demand now, called Exposed that I’m in with Keanu Reeves. And there’s another film coming out in October called Movie Madness with me and Lorenzo Lamas.
What about any other upcoming projects or albums, or anything else that you’re working on?
Well, right now I’m featured on the new Tito Jackson single called “Get it Baby.” You gotta check it out! It’s actually dope. It’s real dope. And I’m going to be featured on a new Bootsy Collins project along with Musiq Soulchild, on a song called “Hot Sauce.”
What’s your secret to your youthful looks and how do you stay so fit?
Well, for one, I try to eat right and exercise. But more importantly, I think one of the main things is not living a stressful life. Stress can break you down. Stress can make you look old. Stress can make you feel old. You can’t live a stressful life. You have to really enjoy life to the fullest.
You’re known as one of the most dapper rappers of all time. You set the trend way back and revolutionized hip-hop fashion. How would you describe your style of dress today when you perform?
I still try to keep it real smooth. That’s something that’s real important to me. I think that as an artist, as an entertainer, you don’t ever want to stand on stage and look in the crowd and see someone dressed the same way you are. Certain things come natural to some people.
Speaking of performing, you’ll be performing this Labor Day weekend in Detroit at the all-white concert and party at Freedom Hill with George Clinton and Pfunk, and Cameo. How does it feel to hit the stage after all these years? Is it still a euphoric high when you hit the stage, or are you as cool, calm and collected as you always appear to be?
Honestly, I look at it as a blessing because things could’ve [gone] the other direction. So, I’m humbled and I really feel blessed to still be [performing] and to still have people that want to see me after these amount of years. And I enjoy doing it. I have a ball seeing cats that I’ve toured with throughout the years, you know like Whodini, cats like Slick Rick, you know to be able to share the stage with them like we were doing 20 something years ago, I think it’s beautiful and a whole lot of fun. Then also to share the stage with the Mary Jane Girls, I mean I sampled their song for “Smooth Operator,” and now we’re on the same show.
Last question. When it’s all said and done, what are three words that you want people to remember you by or think of when they hear your name, Big Daddy Kane?
You just said them: Big Daddy Kane …