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BIG DADDY KANE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Long Live the Kane (Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros.) 1988
It's a Big Daddy Thing (Cold Chillin'/Reprise) 1989
Taste of Chocolate (Cold Chillin'/Reprise) 1990

A pivotal figure in one sphere of the mid-'80s rap scene, Brooklyn's Big Daddy Kane (Antonio Hardy) is the quintessential smooth operator, an influential party MC (and would-be '70s soul crooner) with a convincing hard- edged style and an inconsistent, occasionally dismal, lyrical outlook. Produced by Marley Marl, Long Live the Kane lists the gold-wearing ladykiller's many talents and achievements with more skill than wit and includes an entertaining goof with longtime associate Biz Markie as well as an ill-advised stab at singing ("The Day You're Mine"). Showing a taste for topicality, Kane delves into Muslim Afrocentricity in "Word to the Mother(land)" and paints a utopian fantasy (in "I'll Take You There") where crime, welfare and crack are unknown, but "fresh Gucci wear is only $5.99!"

Announcing "I Get the Job Done," Kane demonstrates his fiery power on the masterful It's a Big Daddy Thing. When he's not engaging in raw boasts and putdowns (some of which recycle rhymes from the first LP), Kane's raps attack racism and self-destruction, promote pride and celebrate the next generation (in the reggae-styled "Children R the Future"). The smug playboy jive of "On the Move" is easy to ignore, but the crude sex tales of "Pimpin' Ain't Easy" (complete with a gratuitous expression of anti-gay hatred) is a pernicious development in Kane's repertoire.

Taking advantage of stardom's perks, Kane built some inter-generational bridges on Taste of Chocolate. Barry White ("All of Me") and Rudy Ray Moore ("Big Daddy vs. Dolemite") guest on the mellow-sounding LP, an intelligently mature triumph which switches easily from sex- machine egotism and gauzy romantic soul to incisively astute and realistic street politics (like "Dance with the Devil" and the surprisingly poppy "Who Am I," co-written and rapped with Gamilah Shabazz). Typical of Kane's newly raised consciousness, "No Damn Good" sounds misogynist, but only disses women who don't respect themselves.

[Ira Robbins]