NPR received a visit from rap royalty on Monday (Feb. 19) as Big Daddy Kane delivered a brief performance of his biggest hits for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, while also sharing his sentiments on the current generational divide in hip-hop, and even slipping in an impromptu freestyle.
Big Daddy Kane kicked off his short set by revisiting the 1989 classic “Smooth Operator.” Backed by four musicians — a drummer, saxophonist, pianist, and a guitar player — Dark Gable’s buttery, polished flow poured over the jazzy, soulful arrangement with ease, before he took a breather to lead the audience in a call-and-response hum of the “Smooth Operator” melody.
After opening the floor for his musicians to showcase their talents, Kane dove into “Ain’t No Half Steppin” and “Raw,” and proved why he’s one of rap music’s celebrated lyricists by delivering an impromptu freestyle towards the end of his set.
At one point during his performance, Kane also discussed his love for hip-hop and encouraged real hip-hop enthusiasts to keep the genre thriving and “powerful.”
“I love to see it grow and to see it continue on,” he told the crowd. “I hope everybody out here is supporting hip-hop and trying to make it continue on. I’ve seen a lot of biased stuff going on about how, ‘This is not hip-hop,’ and ‘This is real hip-hop.’ But I mean, you never know what floats somebody’s boat. Whatever form of hip-hop you like, man, love it and keep it going. Keep it strong, make sure it stays powerful — because there’s always gonna be different ways of presenting something and expressing yourself.”
Watch Big Daddy Kane’s full Tiny Desk Concert below.