Born Antonio Hardy and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Big Daddy Kane was an influential member of the Juice Crew, a hip-hop collective that counted among its members, other hip-hop legends like Biz Markie and Kool G Rap. The name Big Daddy Kane came from a variation on Caine, David Carradine’s character from TV show Kung Fu and a character called “Big Daddy” Vincent Price played in the film Beach Party.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked one of Kane’s hit songs “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.”
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 Back on the Block.
Through family and friend connections, the late Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane met at the Albee Square Mall in Downtown Brooklyn. On Goin’ Off, Biz dedicated a song to the landmark. As Kane prepared to battle Biz at the retail plaza, he told mutual associates who were strongly hyping up the local sensation, “Let me meet him. But I need y’all to understand something: after today, when I [beat him in a battle], from now on, when you go to this Biz Markie D dude, you tell him about MC Kane.’ So we went over there. I asked Biz to battle. We battled, and after the battle, Biz was like, ‘Yo, you’re dope, man. You should get down with me. If you get down with me, I promise you, man, we gonna make a record one day.’” This mid-’80s introduction predated Biz’s joining the Juice Crew. It was in the same mall when Kane and Biz were subsequently hanging out, where an encounter with a woman led to Biz coining the term “she caught the vapors.”
Kane broke down when Biz Markie died and shared it was Biz who initially said “I’m going to get you a record deal” and he did. So if there was no Biz Markie, there would not be a Big Daddy Kane.
Now, 53, Kane is still widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers during the “golden age” of hip-hop (1986–1997). He was even recognized in the city of Brooklyn with an official key to the city. Even to this day, there are few emcees in hip-hop that can hold a candle to veteran MC’s, live show. A showman through and through, Kane doesn’t just walk around the stage back and forth as many hip-hop artists do nowadays. He dancing, interacting with the crowd, and has a few signature moves that keep the ladies impressed.
Even in his 50’s, Kane still looks younger than many of his peers and fans, and this might be why:
“I always thought that performance was very important, to be able to deliver great lyrics and also put on a great performance, to have that type of visual where people would take to it, where they’d want to dress like you or have pictures of you hanging up on the wall.”
“It’s all music,” Kane explains. “Marvin Gaye could go from ‘Got to Give It Up’ to ‘Let’s Get it On,’ James Brown could go from ‘The Big Payback’ to ‘This is a Man’s World.’ It’s all music; it’s about people respecting an art form. Once you appreciate an art form, you’re open to everything. If you have these tight ears that’s only trying to hear one thing, that’s where you’re gonna be stuck at.”
He adds, “That goes for artists too—if you’re only gonna walk around stage with a mad screw face on, trying to look tough, more than likely people will come to your show and say, ‘That was the worst performance I ever seen.’ You have to take the time to really respect the art form, then you’ll have a strong fan base for years upon years because they love what you’re putting out, they love your stage presence, they love what you’re about and stand for.”
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It is because of that stage presence that Kane was asked to perform and lead a workout for Hip Hop 4 Health, a free interactive, all-ages family day in the park to get you moving with free health screenings, information, physical fitness demonstrations, fun courses and more.