EXCLUSIVE: Big Daddy Kane Discusses New Group The Las Supper & Album
[Photographs by Sean Ryon]
New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club isn’t exactly the first place one would expect to experience a live hip-hop performance. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, the venue has been a staple of the city’s jazz scene since its doors first opened in 1981. But hip-hop? Other than a plethora of samples pulled from its Half Note Records imprint and a handful of performances – including a memorable cipher featuring Kanye West and Mos Def in 2011 – the Blue Note is perhaps better known for its history as jazz hotspot as opposed to a haunt for hip-hop heads.
That certainly wasn’t the case this past Monday March 11th, however.
Beginning at 8 PM, hundreds of patrons filed into the venerable New York institution to see the Las Supper – a genre-bending Voltron outfit comprised of live band the Lifted Crew, singer Showtyme and emcee Big Daddy Kane. The crowd was a motley assembly of jazz aficionados and hip-hop purists, with fedoras and four-finger rings in tow. Even Kane’s “Show & Prove” collaborator Scoob Lover and famed DJ/Hot 97 personality Mister Cee found themselves in the mix. Yet despite the patchwork of personalities in attendance, the audience was unified in its desire to witness a cross-generational mash-up of hip-hop and soul.
The show kicked off with a raucous instrumental performance courtesy of the Lifted Crew. The New York-based act – a 10-piece live hip-hop group that has earned its stripes backing the likes of Slick Rick and Naughty By Nature – blazed through a set of notable funk and soul classics, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Showtyme and Big Daddy Kane joined the Crew on stage shortly after, covering records like the Undisputed Truth’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Singer Showtyme – a frequent collaborator of Pharoahe Monch – took center stage, imbuing his performance with a sound and energy reminiscent of Motown’s heyday.
The Las Supper then segued into a performance of cuts from its upcoming debut album Back to the Future. Even though the effort marks Big Daddy Kane’s first full length release since Veteranz Day fifteen years earlier, the Juice Crew alum made it abundantly clear in his performance that the project isn’t simply him rhyming over the sounds of a live band. Rather, the Las Supper pulls Kane’s lyrical acrobats into the framework of classic soul and R&B music. Ever the performer, Kane commanded the stage alongside Showtyme and the Lifted Crew, even stopping the show at one point to direct patrons to call their mothers and thank them. And in true James Brown fashion, Kane also curated an improvisation session, during which he introduced each member of the Lifted Crew while they riffed on their respective instruments.
Kane and company closed out the evening’s performance with live renditions of a few of the emcee’s most revered classics. While artfully rendered versions of “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” and “Smooth Operator” left audience members in awe, it was Kane’s final performance of “Raw” off his seminal 1988 debut Long Live the Kane that brought patrons to their feet. As the Brooklyn titan strutted across the stage unleashing a flurry of polysyllabic rhymes, it became clear that even after two-plus decades in the game, nobody does it quite like Kane.