By Jack M. Angelo, senior content director
Cataloguing the career of a certified legend like Big Daddy Kane is a futile effort. Born Antonio Hardy in 1968, Big Daddy Kane helped shape hip-hop at a pivotal moment in the genre’s history, the late 80s and early 90s, and was one of the artists who set the stage for acts like Biggie, Nas, and Jay-Z. Over 30 years ago, Kane began delivering some of the most influential material in the genre, and consistently released music until 1998, when his last album Veteran’z Day was released. Afterward, he continued to rap on guest verses into the 2000s. An untouchable golden era legend, Big Daddy Kane no longer releases new music. He has, however, continued to tour, and came to Baltimore Soundstage on December 6, 2018.
The opening sets were stacked with some of the best local talent Baltimore has to offer. After a DJ and another opener, Dirt Platoon, Ill Conscious, Guy Grams and Jay Royale shared the stage for a set that apparently went too long, and was cut off by the venue. Spitting their hard, Baltimore-inspired bars, the older emcees fit in well with the headliner, but the crowd seemed less than enthused. Politely cheering after every song, and occasionally impressed by Ill Conscious’ speedy flows, much of the audience seemed content to move on with the evening, showing a lack of interest in their between-songs dialogue, with conversations from the audience often drowning out the mic’d up Dirt Platoon.
Once they were kicked off the stage, a short set from Artis, a female duo, lasted less than 15 minutes, but managed to draw some energy from the crowd. The rapper and singer also brought out a male rapper who had the most energy of anyone in the room, but this somehow came across as out of place. Artis’s more contemporary hip-hop sound ironically seemed to connect more with the crowd at this Kane show, but the brevity made sure that no one got too excited.
Next, the Soundstage crew began bringing instruments onto the stage, and the confusion from the crowd was palpable. Many of them were clearly expecting Big Daddy Kane to come up next. Instead, they were treated to a live band, led by MC Bravado, a Baltimore local and Stay Up veteran.
His first song was performed with great energy, with Bravado’s lyricism propelled the audience’s way. Too bad they were having none of it. Audible disappointment from the audience could be heard. “We got a few for you,” Bravado remarked after the first song. “A few?” an audience member desperately cried, clearly displeased with the current situation.
After each song Bravado played, no matter what it was, it was followed with polite clapping, and eventually even some mocking cheers. Each iteration of “we have a few more,” was met with exasperated audience members. After a few songs, Bravado began speaking about a program in which he is involved where kids have the opportunity to learn how to create music. The audience was entirely uninterested, until Bravado explained that he promised one of his students that he could perform a song at this show. “He’s 15 years old,” Bravado remarked, which affected the crowd enough that they were ready to support this teen, even if it was perhaps just to get Bravado off the stage.
An issue occurred on the stage, where it seemed like Soundstage was not going to let him perform. “He’s 15, man,” Bravado could be heard pleading. Eventually, an instrumental was played, but clearly not the one the kid had practiced on.
“Same flow, same pocket,” Bravado encouraged the young rapper. He then began to perform the song, and the crowd lent him enough support that he started to seem comfortable on the stage. The rudimentary lyrics served to endear the audience to him at first, but by the end of the first 16 bars, most of the crowd had again lost interest. At the end of his freestyle, the audience did cheer the teen as he left the stage. Hopefully he takes this experience as a positive one, since he may have gotten the second best audience reception of the night.
MC Bravado and his band came back on stage and said what much of the audience was dreading, “we got a few more for you.”
The main complainers of the night let out an audible groan. It was clear at this point that Bravado was acutely aware of his standing with the crowd.
“You guys are like, ‘get these white dudes off the stage, I want Big Daddy Kane.’” He could not have been more correct. The last few songs seemed to trudge along as the audience became decreasingly interested, then angry. Phones were out—not unusual at a concert in 2018—but they were not recording the entertainment, as much as providing it. Despite Bravado’s best effort to engage the crowd, only a few people seemed to understand what he was trying to get across in his songs.
After MC Bravado finally left, a DJ came to the stage to entertain the audience for the brief period before Big Daddy Kane would come on. He began to play rap songs from the 80s and 90s, and the crowd finally began to energize, most of them knowing the songs by heart. Screaming along to a track from their childhoods, the mostly 30+ crowd was enjoying themselves for one of the first times that evening. A break-dancer briefly appeared, and then left, prompting a bit of confusion, but his talent distracted them for the two minutes he was present.
Big Daddy Kane finally appeared, first vocally, then physically, and the crowd was ready. They were cheering and rapping along through his first songs. He then tested the audience, asking if hip-hop was there. After performing one of his songs to a fully enthralled room, he declared that, in fact, hip-hop was in Baltimore at the time. He spent more time speaking to the crowd than performing, even remarking how tired he was becoming about half way through the set. He asked the audience to cheer if they were over 25, then 35, then 45 years old, and each cheer was louder than the last, indicating the audience’s age and pride simultaneously.
Big Daddy Kane can still rap just as well, and performs like a legend should, to a crowd of adoring fans. Before he came out, however, hip-hop was definitely not in Baltimore, or at least not in the crowd at Soundstage that night. The stacked local hip-hop bill is rare these days at big shows. Hundreds of people came out to see Big Daddy Kane that evening, supposedly because they wanted to watch some hip-hop be performed on a stage. The openers were listed prior to the show, and sets moved swiftly through the evening. But the plethora of talent on display throughout the opening sets was not often rewarded with attention or applause.
It’s unclear why MC Bravado garnered the reception he did that evening. Perhaps his White face in a nearly all Black crowd of both audience members and openers turned them off. Perhaps it was his choice to use real instruments and a band to back up his rapping. Perhaps he was simply the last act before Big Daddy Kane and his set felt too long. Perhaps they actually just thought he was whack. It could be a combination of all of that, but maybe Baltimore just doesn’t appreciate Baltimore?
Regardless, a vocal majority of Soundstage did not enjoy Bravado that evening, and displayed little interest for anyone else. Big Daddy Kane performed for a short period of time, barely longer than Bravado. The show started at 8:30 with five listed openers, but for some reason, most of the audience decided to show up and then check out for the majority of the show. Feel free to support MC Bravado, Ill Conscious, and Guy Grams by watching their interviews with Stay Up on our YouTube channel.
These incredible photos from Big Daddy Kane’s show at Baltimore Soundstage on December 6, 2018, were taken by StayUp.News senior content producer Jack M. Angelo: