When Big Daddy Kane broke out those “Smooth Operator” moves in Bed-Stuy on Saturday, he rocked an already elated crowd of mostly 40-year-olds and older who remembered the tunes, the dance moves and the attitude of the late ’80s and ’90s.
Last week, Kane told the AmNews, “It’s gonna be like a hip-hop version of a James Brown show, with all the dynamics and a soul feel to it, you know.” And it was. Lauded as one of the “greatest rappers during the ‘golden age’ of hip-hop (1986–1993),” according to last.fm/music, Kane headlined Restoration Rocks!, part of the annual Bed Stuy Alive! event on Saturday. There, DJ Questlove spun like he was in the heart of Brooklyn, Chrisette Michele dropped a couple of tunes and talked about her deep-rooted Brooklyn connections while BK’s own Maya Azucena kicked in the door, and actor Leon hosted.
The nine-year-old festival celebrates the rich history and diversity of the local Brooklyn community, from delicious foods from cultures from all over the Diaspora and beyond, to unique crafts, local musical talent and historic brownstones.
And Bed-Stuy is certainly known for producing some of the most influential rappers, such as Biggie, Jay Z, Mos Def, Lil’ Kim and, of course, Antonio Hardy, aka Kane.
The legendary “Dark Gable” was “Back on the Block,” with his “Taste of Chocolate” as the glorious “Prince of Darkness.” Nothing could keep those moms, pops and grandfolk and their kin from busting a move. Don’t hurt yourselves now! No danger of that though, as Kane broke out some classic steps. The roar shook Fulton Street, aka Harriet Ross Tubman Avenue.
“Those are moves I’ve been doing since back in ’88, so it’s just what we know,” Kane told the AmNews. “I do this because of the fans and the support I’ve received from them for 26 years.”
He blessed the crowd with “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” “I Get the Job Done,” “It’s a Big Daddy Thing“ and of course “Smooth Operator.” As for the audience, there wasn’t a lyric they didn’t know, nor a move they didn’t anticipate. He brought back old-school steps like the Snake, the Running Man, the Cabbage Patch and the Wop.
He jumped into the crowd. He had folks sing into the microphone. He called out for all his fellow Smooth Operators, and to be sure, the adulation from his female fans was not lost on him. The Bed-Stuy kid, he was home.
Once a member of the Juice Crew, Kane is seen as an elder statesman of the industry—not in age at 45-years-old, but in experience and impact. That makes folk listen to his opinion. He told the AmNews that aside from himself, long-time friend Jay Z , Rakim, KRS and Eminem, “It seems like in the past 10 years, there hasn’t been another artist that they are mentioning like someone who is great or a legend, or on their way to be a legend. And I’d like to see hip-hop continue with strong artists.”
The industry focuses on quick money, as opposed to real investment as an artists.
Kane told the AmNews, “I think artists now are more focused on making money as opposed to making a great product. I don’t think anyone is really doing anything to make their base want to dress like them, want to talk like them, look like them or even want to download their entire, whole project. I think they’d rather just grab whatever the hot single is and keep it moving.”
Who is to blame, Kane? Who is to blame?
“I think the blame lies with both, but more so the industry. The blame lies with the artist to a degree, but it’s like for the artist to say, ‘I want to make quality music,’ might mean that he may have to sacrifice his career or get no major push behind his project, because they are only looking for certain material. So I think the change really needs to come from the radio, social media and all that stuff with trying to promote more positive music. It happens, but not necessarily on a large scale.
“There’s Centric network, Okayplayers and other different outlets trying to promote good quality music, but you don’t see it on a large scale … you don’t see it on your radio stations; you don’t see it on MTV or BET or anything like that.”
Asked who he does like though, Kane said simply, “I like Slaughterhouse and the battle rappers off of YouTube, like Lux Goodz, Conceited and Pat Stay.”
Kane tours, he’s got his band, and now with this show under his belt—if he ever was away—King Asiatic is back.
The seventh annual Restoration Rocks! music festival, like the Mos Def and the Brooklyn Philharmonic show a year or so ago, was such a fun-filled, family-friendly, peaceful and uplifting event. There were vendors selling clothes, food and jewelery. There were several information tables pushing everything from Black recruitment into the FDNY, to the anti-gun violence Chris S. Owens Foundation, to last Sunday’s Bed-Stuy 10K race.
The event was promoted by April Silver of Akila Worksongs and Tracey Capers, Restoration’s executive vice president of programs and organizational development. Launched in 2007, Restoration Rocks! seeks to highlight and celebrate the rich, artistic legacy that Bedford-Stuyvesant is renowned for. The festival kicked off the Bed Stuy Alive! week of events (www.bed-stuyalive.org). Its theme this year is “Live Healthy. Live Well. Live Green.”