These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
Big Daddy Kane is revered as one of hip-hop’s finest MCs ever. He pioneered compound-syllabic rhyming, and his player persona is emulated to this day. So when I decided to take on Long Live the Kane, his debut album, I was excited to experience Kane to the fullest.
However, what I heard was a major disappointment. Like many other rappers of his era, Kane’s lyrical content of choice on Long Live the Kane is to tell you how great he is in as many different ways as he possible can. The result is several repetitive cuts which fail to stand out from one another. The lengths of songs don’t help matters; part way through songs such as “Raw” and “Set it Off,” Kane’s boasts become redundant. Even the funky “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” goes on a little too long. The production, provided entirely by Marley Marl, contains an abundance of funky samples, but with little variation, the music too becomes repetitive.
To Kane’s credit, his rhyming technique is impeccable. He comes out live on tracks, ripping them to shreds with his at-the-time cutting edge compound-syllabic bars. On the title track, for instance, he rhymes “admit you was” with “conspicuous.” Kane was absolutely ahead of his time with that. Kane is also extremely hype, and it is not hard to believe he was a great battle MC. Unfortunately, it is this same technical strength that bogs down the album. While Kane is credited with introducing the player persona to hip-hop, his rough track presence, coupled with Marl’s hard-hitting drums, does not mesh well with his pimped-out rhymes. Lacking both the suave feel of Jay-Z and the smooth playfulness of Snoop Dogg, Kane sounds a bit awkward while half-shouting how debonair he is. Nowhere on the album is this more apparent than “On the Bugged Tip.”
Surprisingly, Kane is at his best with weightier topics, kicking stellar rhymes about his idea of a eutopia on “I’ll Take You There,” and rapping an authentic ode to Africa on “Word to the Mother (Land).” (Kudos to Marl for the killer Staple Singers sample on the former.) However, moments such as these are scarce on Long Live the Kane. The compilation of mediocre songs results in an album that sounds long even at ten tracks.
Kane should forever be respected as a major influence and inspiration in hip-hop, and his skills as an MC were no joke. However, Long Live the Kane is largely mediocre by today’s standards. If a current rapper came out on every song of his album and did nothing but rap about how great he was on every song, we would say that rapper lacked substance. If that same rapper’s lyrical content didn’t match his style, we would criticze that, also. Well, that’s Long Live the Kane in a nutshell: a technically-brilliant album that is plagued by a lack of substance and compatibility. It’s not bad, but I didn’t find it to be all that good, either.