Feb. 19, 2018 | Abby O’Neill — One of the greatest to ever bless the mic, Big Daddy Kane treated Tiny Desk to an office block party in the true essence of hip-hop. He performed a short set of classics, including “Smooth Operator,” “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” “Raw” and a bonus freestyle. Through his warm, engaging and devilishly self-effacing style, the pioneer used an interlude between songs to address the intergenerational divisiveness defining rap today and the importance of fans of all ages supporting whatever they like, while “focusing on what’s positive and keeping that in the spotlight.”
Kane, aka Dark Gable, was a breakout member of the seminal Juice Crew in hip-hop’s golden era during the latter part of the 1980s. He popularized quick-cadence flows and multisyllabic rhyme schemes before passing the torch to early mentees like Jay-Z. Many a night during my adolescence was spent trying to memorize the baritone MC’s lyrics. During those sessions, I could only feel sympathy for the subpar MCs who fell victim to the “Wrath of Kane.”
The smooth operator, Big Daddy Kane, still emits that same palpable swag he did as a lyrical heartthrob during his heyday. He strides into the room and fully commands it with his presence. And now that hip-hop is the most popular genre, with its biggest stars wielding global influence, it’s important to us here at Tiny Desk to continue to make room for the legends who laid the foundation before the whole world became hip. Long live the Kane.
• “Smooth Operator”
• “Ain’t No Half Steppin”
Producers: Abby O’Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Alyse Young; Assistant Editor: Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: CJ Riculan; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.