Verse Of The Week: Big Daddy Kane
It’s about time for another Verse Of The Week. This time, we’re headed back to Brooklyn. We’re also headed back to 1987, so get your four-finger rings and meet me after the jump.
Big Daddy Kane got his start in the music biz as a co-writer for Biz Markie. He would go on to be responsible for many of Markie’s most notable and quotable rhymes. He joined the legendary Juice Crew in 1986 and signed with Marley Marl‘s Cold Chillin’ Records in 1987. That same year, he released the single (and underground classic) “Raw.”
By 1988, he had released his debut album, Long Live The Kane.
The lead single from that album is one of the most critically acclaimed and widely respected tracks hip hop has heard: “Ain’t No Half Steppin’.” With his intricate flow and use of various rhyming devices and techniques, Kane proves that he is rightfully considered one of the greatest and most influential emcees ever to do it.
He took the skill of rapping to an entirely new height, and most rappers (who actually happen to be gifted or skillful) cite him as their inspiration. Basically, he is to hip hop – in many ways – what Richard Pryor is to comedy: the human blueprint who must in some way be emulated if greatness is to be achieved.
Without further ado, I submit the second verse from Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin’.”
“My rhymes are so dope and
The rappers be hopin’
To sound like me, so soon I’ll have to open
A school of emceein’, for those who want to be in
My field in court
Then again on second thought
To have MC’s coming out sounding so similar
It’s quite confusing for you to remember
The originator, and boy do I hate a
Perpetrator, but I’m much greater
The best oh yes I guess suggest the rest should fess
Don’t mess or test your highness
Unless you just address with best finesse
And bless the paragraph I manifest
Rap prime minister, some say sinister
Non-stopping the groove, until when it’s the
Climax, and I max, relax and chill
Have a break from a take of me acting ill
Brain cells are lit, ideas start to hit
Next the formation of words that fit
At the table I sit, making it legit
And when my pen hits the paper, ahh s**t!
I stop and stand strong over MC’s
And devour with the power of Hercules
Or Samson, but I go further the length
Cause you could scalp my cameo and I’ll still have strength
And no, that’s not a myth, and if you try to riff
Or get with, the man with the given gift of gab
Your vocab, I’ll only ignore
Be sleeping on your rhymes till I start to snore
You can’t awake me, or even make me
Fear you, son, cause you can’t do me none
So, think about it if you’re trying to go
When you want to step to me, I think you should know that…
(Ain’t No Half Steppin’)”
Big Daddy Kane starts his line by telling you just how dope he is, saying that rappers want to sound like him. Notice that he uses more than one word to rhyme. In the first couplet, he rhymes the words “dope and” with “hopin’,” using this multi-word technique we have become so accustomed to but which was just beginning to hit hip hop’s radar during this time.
He goes on to suggest that he might start a school for rappers. Similar sentiments have been expressed by droves of rappers since the release of this record. The most recent I heard was Kanye West in “Gone,” from 2005′s Late Registration:
“I’ma open up a store for aspiring MC’s
Won’t sell ‘em no dream, but the inspiration is free
But if they ever flip sides like Anakin
You’ll sell everything includin’ the mannequin
They got a new b***h now you Jennifer Aniston“
Kane goes on to doubt his initial thoughts of founding an MC school, saying that there would be too many rappers who sound just like him and people may forget that he is the originator of his particular flow.
He crowns himself the king with the next two lines as he uses internal rhyme to get the point across. The internal rhyme scheme is so intricately crafted, in fact, that every other syllable in those two lines rhymes (give or take a word on the second line). He recreates this moment with the next line (beginning with “Unless”) as well.
Kane continues to solidify his trend of rhyming one word with two or more words as he goes on, rhyming “sinister” with “when it’s the.” As the verse continues, he describes his creative process, noting that the ideas come first and are followed by the proper words. He sits at the table and puts it all together, then starts writing the verse down (with his trademark braggadocio – another staple in hip hop).
The next lines feature allusions to Greek mythology as well as a character from the Bible’s Old Testament. The Greek myth in question is that of Hercules, half-man, half-god, with amazing strength. Kane likens his power as a wordsmith to the power possessed by Hercules. The biblical allusion is to Samson, the strong and mighty Nazarite, who was ultimately betrayed by his wife when she cut his hair and thereby depleted his strength. Kane not only alludes to this story, but remarks that even if someone cut his hair, he would still be strong on the microphone.
He goes on to say that he will ignore any attempts to disprove his lyrical superiority and that his boredom with such attempts will cause him to “sleep” on the person responsible.
He announces that he fears no one because his lyrical skills are unmatched and suggests that anyone who challenges him should not half-step.
It’s clear that Big Daddy Kane certainly won’t.
Because a legend such as Kane – which is said to be a backronym for King Aziatic Nobody’s Equal – should be heard rather than read about, here’s the song in it’s entirety.
The masterful hip hop heroism displayed on this track is worthy of the dedicated study of all those who call themselves rappers or fans. Take notes, ladies and gentlemen.
Main Image: Chicago Now