Big Daddy Kane exists in a category of rappers so revered that the reverence itself may eclipse the actual art that inspired it. Born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Hardy grew up surrounded by the art of emceeing. He speaks glowingly of the artists that inspired him, pre-Golden Age names that are largely forgotten to all but the oldest of oldheads: Grandmaster Caz helped shape his flow, whilst acts such as Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Melle Mel acted as heroes and forebears. The once-widespread art of battle rapping also shaped his artistic development, placing emphasis on self-aggrandising rhymes useful for in-person fights.
He met Biz Markie in 1984, and the friendship brought him into the orbit of Cold Chillin' Records, home of producer Marley Marl. Kane released his first two singles in 1987, though his first LP credits would be for writing five tracks on Biz's debut album, Goin' Off. His own debut, Long Live The Kane, released four months later, and the rest is history.
What is it that makes Long Live The Kane such an important LP? Kane's lyrical dexterity helped push hip hop in another direction, as did his taste for high-tempo beats and frenetic flows. Legends such as RZA and Eminem would point to Kane as a specific point of inspiration, and contemporaries such as Kool Moe Dee and Ice T would declare him amongst the greatest rappers of all time. In celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his blockbuster debut, we're breaking down all the samples that comprise Long Live The Kane.
"Long Live the Kane"
As both title track and album opener, "Love Live The Kane" encapsulates the qualities that make Big Daddy Kane such a revered force in Golden Era hip hop. Charismatic and irreverent, intricate and complex, Kane's undeniable flow and easygoing delivery put him at the forefront of the rapidly-evolving hip hop culture.
The album opens with a sample of The Meters' "Here Comes The Meter Man," included on their 1969 self-titled debut. The group had spent much of the mid-60s honing their rapport with live shows at The Ivanhoe Club, a storied venue in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter. Their debut would be the first of eight records - though the band continues to play, they haven't released a studio album in over 40 years.
As is overwhelmingly common, the track features a sample from James Brown, the most sampled artist in history. The opening lyric from "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" - "your bad self!" - can be heard in the background of "Long Live The Kane," first appearing around 0:12 and continuing throughout. "Say It Loud– I'm Black and I'm Proud" was the first Brown track to feature trombonist Fred Wesley, who would go on to achieve further fame as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic.
Much like Public Enemy, whose sophomore album released just a week after Kane's debut, Kane interpolates a pervasive cereal catchphrase. Whilst PE borrow from the Trix rabbit, Kane takes a phrase from Tony the Tiger, mascot of Frosted Flakes.
Tony's catchphrase - "they're great!" - has become a much-referenced catchphrase since its introduction in 1953.
Kane follows the title track with "Raw (Remix)," a track almost entirely built around James Brown and his funky associates. The track is itself a remix of Kane's first single, "Raw," which was released with b-side "Word To The Mother (Land)."
The high-paced drums are lifted from the intro to Bobby Byrd's version of "Hot Pants." Byrd was a talent scout and eventual member of The J.B.'s, often credited with first discovering Brown's talent. Byrd founded The Famous Flames in 1953, the group with which Brown recorded his first hits.
Brown released "Hot Pants" in 1971, and Byrd released his own version the following year, despite having played organ on the original.
The shrieking horns at 0:10 are lifted from "Mama Feelgood," a track sung by Lyn Collins. Though it's credited to Collins, the track itself appeared on Brown's 1973 Black Caesar OST. The soundtrack featured many contributions from Fred Wesley.
Kane would shout out Black Caesar two years later on Public Enemy's "Burn Hollywood Burn" - lamenting white films, he remembers that he's "got Black Caesar back at the crib."
The remix incorporates a subtle vocal sample of Teena Marie's "Square Biz," a 1981 R&B hit. Marie was a soul music fixture throughout her career, cut short by her sudden death in 2010. "Square Biz" itself interpolates a verse from The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," released as one of the first recorded hip hop tracks just two years prior.
The piercing horn sample that appears at 1:11 is taken from Brown's "Escape-ism," a track included on his 1971 Hot Pants LP. The first single released on his People Records label, "Escape-ism" was apparently recorded whilst waiting for Byrd to arrive at the studio.
Public Enemy would make extensive use of Brown's grating horns, the sound of which would become a key stylistic facet of 1988's It Takes A Nation.
A Brown vocal sample appears at 4:38, scratched by producer Marley Marl. The sample takes one of Brown's famous ad-libs, "hit me," from 1972's "Get On The Good Foot."
The title track from the album of the same name, "Get On The Good Foot" is technically the first of Brown's singles to achieve Gold certification. Despite this, reception was largely tepid in comparison to Brown's preceding efforts.
"Set It Off"
A relentless distillation of Kane's skills, "Set It Off" is potentially the most impressive vocal display on the entire album. Kane's fast-paced, dextrous flow is buoyed by an old school refrain, provided by guest producer The 45 King.
The looping guitar lick that plays throughout the track is sampled from Brown's "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved."
Nas would use the same sample on his 2006 track "Where Are They Now," a reflection on the fates of hip hop's forgotten legends. It was included on his pessimistic Hip Hop Is Dead LP.
The drums that enter at 0:08 are courtesy of a sped-up sample of Grady Tate's "Be Black Baby." Grady was a soul-jazz drummer who played in the house band for Johnny Carson and worked as a sideman alongside Bill Evans, Roy Ayers, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith and many more.
The bizarre sound effect at 1:04 is amongst the most sampled sounds of all time. The modified vocals, which appear at the close of Beside's "Change The Beat (Female Version)," has appeared in over 2000 tracks. Particularly suited for scratching, Marl first sampled the track on Roxanne Shanté's "Bite This," though it was then already one of the golden era's most versatile soundbites.
The ascending progression that immediately precedes Kane's titular refrain is taken from Booker T and the M.G.'s "Grab Bag," a track included on 1977's Universal Language. The record would be the group's last for 17 years, presumably due to the murder of their drummer, Al Jackson Jr.. Formed in 1962, Booker T and the M.G.'s were one of the first racially integrated rock groups. As the Stax Records house band, the group played on a swathe of significant soul records.
"I can't hold it back" is a vocal sample of Waterbed Kev's 1984 single, "All Night Long." Waterbed Kev, also known as Kevie Kev, was a member of The Fantastic Five, a group of emcees who often performed alongside DJ Grandwizard Theodore. Theodore apprenticed under Grandmaster Flash, though he's best remembered for inventing the now-widespread scratching technique. The group appeared as 'Fantastic Freaks' in the seminal 1983 hip hop film, Wild Style.
"The Day You're Mine"
Kane's carefully cultivated image of a well-dressed, charismatic ladies man would come to inform hip hop's idea of the 'playa,' an enduring tenet of the ever-changing genre. "The Day You're Mine" shows Kane at his most outwardly romantic, the first of his seemingly obligatory love song inclusions.
"On the Bugged Tip"
"On the Bugged Tip" features an appearance from Scoob Lover, an alias of little-known NYC emcee Big Scoob. Scoob would go on to appear on Kane's next four LPs, contributing to track such as "Pimpin' Ain't Easy," "On The Move," "In The PJ's" and "Down The Line." Scoob released two non-album singles through Cold Chillin': 1994's "Suckaz Can't Hang" and 1996's "Champagne on the Block." Though Scoob would go on to release eight singles on Fully-Blown Recordings from 2000 to '04, he soon faded into total obscurity.
The instrumental is borrowed from Fab 5 Freddy's "Down By Law," a track included on the 1983 Wild Style OST. Freddy was a true hip hop pioneer: he was the first host of MTV Raps!, an important program that helped take hip hop culture international, and he co-curated art exhibitions featuring Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Perhaps most notably, his voice was the one featured at the close of "Change the Beat," one of the most famous scratch samples ever.
At 0:26, BDK interpolates the chorus from Debarge's 1982 hit, "I Like It." The family band's first real chart success, "I Like It" remains one of Motown's most memorable singles.
The catchy hook has been interpolated by many artists, and is likely familiar to most readers as an element of Nelly's "Ride Wit Me."
Kane interpolates a second memorable melody at 1:59, borrowing the refrain from Teddy Pendergrass' famous single, "Only You."
The track was originally included on his 1978 sophomore album, Life Is A Song Worth Singing. A huge success, the record ushered in Pendergrass' commercial peak, one that would last until the 1982 car accident that left him a quadriplegic. He returned to singing, only retiring in 2006.
The final sample on the track is a massive self-interpolation. Kane borrows his lyrics from "Just Rhymin' With Biz," released as a promotional single in '87. He incorporates a whole forty seconds of his other verse into the close of "On The Bugged Tip,"
"Ain't No Half-Steppin'"
One of the finest rap songs of all time, "Ain't No Half Steppin'" is well remembered as Kane's most enduring contribution to the hip hop canon. It's been sampled in tracks by Notorious B.I.G., MF DOOM, Big L, N.W.A., Raekwon and Joey Badass, bridging generational gaps with nothing more than some memorable production and innovative lyricism.
The Emotions provide one of the track's two instrumental cruxes with "Blind Alley," a track from their 1972 LP, Untouched. Released on Volt, a subsidiary of legendary soul label Stax Records, the track featured a post-airplane crash Bar-Kays as backing band.
The second, more recognisable instrumental sample is taken from ESG's "UFO," a jarring composition famously featured in work by Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, J Dilla and Public Enemy. Though first sampled in 1982, the track gained popularity when it was featured on one of Ultimate Breaks and Beats' 1986 releases, SBR 509.
The saxophone lick that punctuates BDK's bars from 0:31 onward is courtesy of Monk Higgins and The Specialities. The sample is sourced from "Big Water Bed," a track included on their sole 1972 LP, Heavyweight. Higgins is best remembered for the Ultimate Breaks and Beats-featured "One Man Band," which was sampled on Biz Markie's Kane-penned, Marl-produced "Biz is Goin' Off." Though Higgins himself recorded more a handful of solo LPs, he died of respiratory disease in 1986.
Marley Marl sources the track's refrain by sampling Heatwave's 1976 disco track of the same name. The first single from the group's debut, it failed to achieve any chart success. It was subsequent single "Boogie Nights" that would become the group's defining hit, inspiring the title of the Paul Thomas Anderson film of the same name. American actor Clarke Peters, famous for his role in The Wire, sung backing vocals on that track.
Marl makes use of another self sample, this time borrowing from Kane's 1987 single, "Get Into It." Though the track didn't appear on Long Live The Kane, the b-side featured album track "Just Rhymin' with Biz."
The voice that enters at the four-minute mark belongs to Billy Squier. It's sourced from "The Big Beat," Squier's 1980 rock single failed to chart, but eventually found success on account of its oft-sampled drum break.
In the track's final moments, Kane interpolates another commercial jingle. Though he previously sampled Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger, Kane pads out "Ain't No Half Steppin'" with a reference to an old Roy Rogers Restaurants jingle.
Roy Rogers are a small East Coast fast food franchise, and as of 2016, there were 56 Roy Rogers Restaurants servicing the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
"I'll Take You There"
Kane outlines his vision of a utopian society over a sample of The Staple Singers' similarly titled "I'll Take You There." It's a world beyond poverty, crime and hardship, one far removed from the negatives of inner-city living.
The track is comprised of three different samples from The Staple Singers' similarly titled "I'll Take You There."
The verses are underpinned by a sample from 1:38, which features the word "daddy," and the chorus is built around samples from 0:08 and 0:45.
"Just Rhymin' with Biz"
"Just Rhymin' with Biz" was originally included as a b-side to Kane's 1987 single, "Get Into It," though it was ultimately included on the eventual LP. Markie's debut album, Goin' Off, was released on Marley Marl's Cold Chillin' Records just four months prior, featuring contributions from both Kane and Marl.
"Just Rhymin' with Biz" uses the same instrumental as Kane's "Something Funky," the other track included on Kane's "Get Into It" 12".
The "Something Funky" beat samples elements of three James Brown tracks - "The Payback," "Funky Drummer" and "Funky President" - as well as a cut from Brown affiliate Melvin Bliss, "Synthetic Substitution," and a hit from Memphis-based soul artist Rufus Thomas, "Do The Funky Penguin."
Finally, Kane interpolates both lyrics and cadence from Run-DMC's "Hollis Crew (Kush Groove 2)," a cut from their 1983 debut album.
Hip hop revolutionaries in their own right, the emergence of Run-DMC can be seen as the demarcation between 'old school' and 'new school' rap sensibilities. Their unconventional style of dance-free minimalism would ultimately be one of the artform's most important creative evolutions.
"Mister Cee's Master Plan"
An incredible flex from Marley Marl, "Mister Cee's Master Plan" features 23 seperate samples over a mere five-and-a-half minutes. That's no mean feat, especially considering the previous eight tracks, which represent thirty-eight minutes of runtime, contained just 30 samples.
The track opens with a sample of The Kay-Gees' "Who's The Man? (With The Master Plan)." The Kay-Gees were an American disco outfit with ties to Kool & The Gang. The track itself was produced by Ronald Bell, a founding member of that legendary band, and released on the group's imprint, Gang Records.
The drums that start the track are taken from The Turtles' "I'm Chief Kamanawanalea (We're The Royal Macadamia Nuts)," a track from their 1968 concept album, The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands. The record found the group portraying a variety of acts performing at a battle of the bands, moving into atypical genres and moods.
The drum break has been sampled in tracks by De La Soul, The Internet, Ice Cube and Stetsasonic.
The guitar riff that runs alongside the Turtles' percussion is taken from the Jimmy Castor Bunch's "I Promise To Remember," a cut from their 1972 LP, It's Just Begun. The track was written by Castor and jazz musician Jimmy Smith, though it was originally performed by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers in 1956.
"I Promise To Remember" was sampled on Boogie Down Productions' "Jimmy," another 1988 release.
Marley Marl takes a vocal sample from Biz Markie's "Vapors," using it to shout out Kane himself. Markie and Kane - longtime friends and artistic collaborators - both released their debut records in 1988. Kane wrote extensively for Markie's Goin' Off, and is credited as a writer on "Vapors," the album's fifth single and one of Biz's most enduring tracks.
The vocal grab at 0:18 - "and it goes a little something like this!" - is lifted from Run-DMC's "Here We Go," a 1985 live track. It was recorded at the Funhouse, a Manhattan nightclub, in 1983, and was eventually featured on compilation album Rap 2.
At 1:13, Marley Marl makes use of a very subtle sample of Public Enemy's "Rebel Without A Pause."
Though the record on which the track appears, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, was released one week after Long Live The Kane, "Rebel Without a Pause" was issued as the first single in July 1987. On release, It Takes A Nation garnered critical acclaim, and has since been called one of the greatest albums of all time.
The opening to Marva Whitney's "It's My Thing" can be heard at 1:27. Whitney, an associate and onetime partner of James Brown, recorded four albums throughout her storied career.
"It's My Thing," released in 1969, was Whitney's first chart success. The song itself was a reply to The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing," another 1969 funk hit. Brown referenced this track again on his 1974 single, "My Thang."
The distinctive vocal sample that appears at 2:06 is courtesy of Stevie Wonder. The sample is sourced from "Skeletons," a track from his 1987 LP, Characters. Though a critically lukewarm release, "Skeletons" itself was nominated for two Grammys, peaking at #19 on the Billboard 100. It would be Wonder's last top 20 hit.
The sampled vocal is "it's getting ready to--," cutting off before he says "blow."
The "oh-oh-oh-oh" refrain that appears immediately after the "Skeletons" sample is taken from Serious Intention's "You Don't Know (Limited Edition Special Remix)."
Serious Intention were a little-known house outfit active throughout the '80s and '90s. "You Don't Know" was their first and seemingly most successful single, spawning a swathe of remixes and reissues.
The brief vocal sample at 2:12 - "let go" - is taken from Maze's 1981 single, "Before I Let Go." Though it was included on their 1981 live album, Live in New Orleans, the track is one of four new studio recordings included on the LP. Though the outfit has undergone many changes, they continue to tour under the guidance of frontman Frankie Beverley.
There's a brief, otherworldly sample of Hashim's "Al-naafiyish (The Soul)" at 2:17. An essential electro-funk recording, "Al-naafiyish" was a much-sampled track throughout hip hop's new school and golden era.
Hashim was born Jerry Calliste Jr., adopting his stage name upon converting to Islam in 1982.
The next appearance in Marl's unstoppable onslaught of vocal samples is Rakim, as he borrows vocals from seminal hip hop cut "Eric B. Is President." The track was the first recorded by the legendary duo, who cut it with assistance from Marley Marl himself. It appeared on their influential debut LP, 1987's Paid In Full.
The vocal sample at 2:30, which urges the listener to "move your body," is taken from Marshall Jefferson's 1986 house classic, "Move Your Body."
The influential house track is purportedly the first to incorporate piano, and Jefferson himself would go on to pioneer genres such as acid house and deep house. A Chicago native, Jefferson was involved in the glory days of Chicago house, which was itself the birth of the greater house genre.
The chorus of voices that shout "get fresh!" at 2:35 are, suitably, The Get Fresh Crew. The sample is taken from Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's "The Show," a significant 1985 single and the fourth hip hop single to achieve gold status.
The track's b-side, "La Di Da Di," has become a sensation in its own right, owing to the oft-interpolated titular refrain. It was notably referenced by Future on 2018's "King's Dead."
The next vocal snippet appears at 2:40, and is taken from one of Kane's pre-LLTK singles.
"Somethin' Funny" was released in 1987, issued as one of two b-sides to single "Get Into It." Whilst neither "Get Into It" or "Somethin' Funny" were included on the finished album, the second b-side, "Just Rhymin' With Biz," made the cut.
The next vocal sample in the massive collage - which appears at 2:50 - comes from Chic's "Good Times," a track which boasts one of the most recognisable bass lines of all time. "Good Times" has a special place in hip hop - the instrumental underpinned The Sugarhill Gang's 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight," one of the first recorded hip hop tracks.
Marl goes back to hip hop basics, taking one of Brown's trademark ad-libs from the open of "Get On The Good Foot." The title track from his 1972 LP, it was co-written by trombonist Fred Wesley, who would soon leave Brown's orbit and become an integral member of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective.
The same ad-lib was previously sampled on "Raw (Remix)."
The absurd sample at 3:00 is taken from Beastie Boys' "The New Style," a track from their 1986 debut, Licensed To Ill. The cartoonish tone of the sample - "mmm, drop!" - is well in keeping with the group's early irreverence, one which manifest itself with satirical enthusiasm and full-on novelty tracks.
Though their debut remains an important moment in new school hip hop, their sophomore album, Paul's Boutique, remains their critical peak.
At 3:40, Marl employs a looping vocal grab from his own roster, sampling Kool G Rap and DJ Polo's "It's A Demo." The track, produced by Marl himself, was released as a 1986 single on Cold Chillin' Records. The track, originally slated as a demo, was recorded at Marl's house. The circumstances of the recording mirror that of Eric B. & Rakim's "Eric B. Is President" sessions, recorded at Marl's house one year later.
Marl's brief sample of Afrika Bambaataa's "Death Mix Part 2" pays homage to one of hip hop's founding fathers. "Death Mix" was recorded live at James Monroe High School, a Bronx establishment, in 1983. Bambaataa was the founder of the Universal Zulu Nation, an early hip hop collective. He stepped down from his role after being accused of sexual assault in 2016.
The final two vocal samples on the track are juxtaposed to pay homage to Kane's stomping grounds: Lewis Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The "Lewis" sample is sourced from Beastie Boys' "Hold It Now, Hit It," the first single from the group's hit debut, Licensed To Ill. The 1986 single was an early Def Jam release, produced by label founder and legendary producer Rick Rubin.
The second half of the "Lewis Avenue" juxtaposition is taken from Fat Larry's Band's "Down on the Avenue." The Philidelphia R&B outfit experienced success throughout the '70s and '80s, but folded soon after 'Fat' Larry James' sudden death in 1987.
"Word to the Mother (Land)"
"Word to the Mother (Land)" finds Kane at his most Afrocentric. A heartfelt dedication to Africa, the motherland of African-Americans whose relatives were unjustly ripped from their homes, the track makes reference to black nationalist leaders such as Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan as well as ideas such as the Asiatic black man. Antonio Hardy rejects the name he was given, itself a product of his peoples displacement - instead, on the album's final track, he definitively declares himself Big Daddy Kane.
Marl samples a distinctive walking bassline from Le Pamplemousse's 1976 track, "Gimmie What You Got." Included on their self-titled debut, the track has since been sampled by heavy hitters such as Eminem, Geto Boys and Tha Alkaholiks.
The group released seven albums over eight years, issuing their final single in 1993.
As is only appropriate, the final sample on the album is James Brown himself. Marl cuts and pastes his vocals from the introduction to "Funky President (People It's Bad)":
"People, people, we've got to get over
Before we go under, yeah Lord
People, people, we've got to get over
Before we go under
Let's get together, let's get together..."
A Big Daddy Thing
Kane's second album, 1989's It's A Big Daddy Thing, continued to showcase his technical skills and build on his decadent image. From there, Kane would double down on the lady-loving, player-heavy rhetoric that appeared on his early efforts, portraying himself as an overtly (and sometimes confrontationally) sexual figure. His career lasted longer than many of his peers - without any long absence or artistic renaissance, Kane kept producing records up until 1998, when he released Veteranz Day, his seventh and ultimately last LP. Kane's continued critical success allowed him to collaborate with acts such as Ol' Dirty Bastard, Large Professor, DJ Premier, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes. Kane even acted as a mentor for a then-young JAY-Z, who appeared on his 1994 LP, Daddy's Home.
Marley Marl would remain affiliated with NYC new school collective Juice Crew following the release of Long Live The Kane, going on to produce records for members such as Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, MC Shan, Roxanne Shanté, Masta Ace and Craig G. Perhaps his most notable credits are on LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out, another defining Golden Age record.
Even thirty years on, Long Live The Kane remains a showcase of charisma, confidence and technical ability. Kane largely eschewed socio-political content, opting instead to entertain with intricate wordplay and impressive flows. The album helped shape the next decade of East Coast hip hop, influencing NYC vanguards such as Nas and RZA and becoming a canonical entry in the history of the genre. Whilst Kane's career continued throughout the '90s, much of his continued relevance can be traced back to his influential debut.