Depending on which rap congregation you belong to the order might vary but in the often discussed, rarely agreed upon, topic of which emcee is the best to ever rock the mic there is an undisputed holy trinity everyone worships: Rakim, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane. A strong case can be made for bestowing the title of ‘GOAT’ upon Kane. Consider the evidence: several classic albums and songs to his name, an unparalleled flow by which all others shall be judged, the originator and master of the punchline simile and a live reputation that has held up throughout the decades.
Kane was the superstar on a label, Cold Chillin’ Records, packed with future legends like Masta Ace, Biz Markie and MC Shan (don’t forget the Kool Genius of Rap was also creating his seminal masterpieces with DJ Polo at Cold Chillin’). His first two albums, Long Live the Kane and It’s a Big Daddy Thing, were giant leaps in hip-hop evolution but when Taste of Chocolate came out in 1990 cracks seemed to appear in what until that point had appeared to be an invincible armor. First there was the Barry White duet, All of me, a corny love ballad that had nothing going for it other than the fact that Kane had enough pull and respect to procure the presence of the original overweight lover on his album. Secondly there was the lackluster dance jam Keep ‘em on the Floor, an anemic pop-rap number that shouldn’t have made the album. For a rapper who seemed to be untouchable those two missteps were enough to raise questions on whether or not King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal was slipping.
That kind of talk would only increase with Kane’s follow-up record, Prince of Darkness, unjustly dismissed at the time as a sell-out record. Kane’s production was heavily influenced by Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing (The lover in you and Groove with it for instance) and a lot of time was spent wooing the ladies (the title track and T.L.C.). Doing so by complimenting the fairer sex instead of labeling them bitches and hoes has always been somewhat of a rap faux pas and gave a lot of folks the idea that Kane had gone soft. It also didn’t help that smack dab in the middle of the album rested I’m not ashamed, another stretched out spoken word love balled but this time with no Barry White in sight.
Prince of Darkness does have it’s moments through, enough to actually suggest that it might just be Kane’s most underrated album. Perhaps even one of the most underrated records of the nineties. As radio friendly has some of the production might have been, there were an ample amount of tracks that showed that BDK was still a beast on the microphone very few could hang with. He absolutely murders Git Bizzy, Death Sentence and Float, flows the hell out of Ooh, Aah, Nah-Nah-Nah (a track much doper than it’s title would suggest) and Get Down, and gives naysayers the finger on Troubled Man. On top of that the record also features one of rap’s greatest posse cuts, Come On Down, where Q-Tip and a Dungeon Dragon-era Busta Rhymes join in on the proceedings, and the smooth trade-off between Kane and his brother Little Daddy Shane as they go back and forth on Brother, Brother.
Prince of Darkness was ahead of it’s time, a couple of years later rappers like Biggie Smalls and Big Punisher would make their mark following the formula Kane presented on his fourth album, mixing radio-friendly tracks with cuts designed for the streets and blurring the line between the two. For Kane it spelled the end of his hip-hop supremacy though. On 1993’s Looks like a job for…he would return completely to his tried and tested battle rap aesthetic, appearing on the cover in a hoodie instead of a three-piece suit, but unable to reconnect with his audience.
For anyone who can appreciate skill, the album is definitely worth seeking out. It might be flawed but it’s strengths outweigh it’s weaknesses and it’s just begging to be rediscovered.