Or how about the time I got Charlie Benante of Anthrax on the phone and he was already angry about the tiny check he got from Spotify that week and so came off as fan-unfriendly, going on and on about how no one wanted to buy records anymore, so yeah another damn tour?
That isn’t to say that all these affairs end up badly. One time I talked to Elvis Kuehn from FIDLAR. He called me from the back of a rickety tour van filled with excited young rockers jamming out to Neil Young, smoke blowing through the telephone handset while they headed for one of their first “huge” gigs in H-Town. There was also my encounter with Michael Gira, founder of Swans; our conversation took the shape of dark discourse on the drone of eternity and the doors of perception.
The painters and the poets are always cool, almost ice-cold in their certainty and cerebral character. Janet Reno was formal and distant but wanted to appear friendly and close.
And now, like many music wonks disturbed by the slow and steady stagnation of rocanrol this year—and last year and the year before that, going on 10 years now—I have turned to other genres in search of that taste you said you’d bring, to paraphrase one of Steely Dan’s typically unreliable, experience-seeking narrators.
That dissatisfaction—that endless and restless search for the new—caused me to access the wonders of hip-hop nation. And lately, I thought I might’ve arrived at one of that world’s sources. That idea came into my head when I heard that I would get to talk to Big Daddy Kane about music. I hope you know all about him already. If you don’t, start with “Raw,” I’m serious. It’s pretty fast stuff where the words come flying past the sly samples in a syncopated style that is hypnotic. After that, go check the man out for realz at Burts’s Tiki Lounge (515 Central NW) on Sunday, Dec. 18.
Anywho, this is how my conversation with the rapper sometimes referred to as King Asiatic Nobody's Equal sounded. Here’s a hint: It’s definitely up there with Gira and Elvis.
Weekly Alibi: Is rock and roll dead? Everyone’s listening to hip-hop. What happened? Did you have something to do with that?
Big Daddy Kane: Did I have something to do with killing rock and roll? I didn’t kill rock and roll. But, I would like to think I had something to do with the rise of hip-hop.
How did hip-hop evolve into this nation’s most popular form of music?
It’s evolved because of the fans. It became something more than just the music. It’s a culture, something that sells more than records. It becomes part of television shows, movies, clothing … everything. That’s what made it [the music] really expand.
How does that accomplishment make you feel, 30 years on?
I’m glad that I’m still working, touring, working with my peers. You’re telling me some new news. I honestly don’t think rock and roll is dead. I think rock and roll is still alive, but I mean hip-hop is definitely strong and probably it’s the strongest musical genre out there. Rock and roll isn’t dead. The Stones are still touring!
Okay, you’re right, I’m being heavy-handed … but closer to the point, what are you listening to these days: rock, hip-hop, what?
I kinda like the old ‘60s rock, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream. For new music, I really like John Mayer. I mainly listen to a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s soul music: David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye, Willie Hutch and Bobby Womack, too.
So, how has soul music and R&B influenced your own style over the years?
Absolutely. There are a lot of soul artists who put their heart into their music. They gave their audiences an idea of what they were thinking and feeling through their art. That’s something that I’ve tried to do. That sort of expression is very influential to me.
What are your current creative projects?
I’m concentrating on this tour, but I just did a featured recording with Bootsy Collins, for his new album. I’m getting ready to record a song with Everlast. But the tour is very important.
How do young people relate to your work, past and present?
There’s some who know, some who get it and some who don’t. This [hip-hop] is part of history. Like I said, I listen to David Ruffin and Bobby Womack, but there are still some people my age who never heard of those artists. That’s just the way it is. But I think hip-hop has a unique voice, so I try to speak to all the people, of all ages.
So what’s this latest tour about, what does the voice of this outing sound like?
I want audiences to hear the stuff I did early on. My work remains the same. There’s a fan base that comes out to see the shows, but it’s always great to see the next generation getting involved. The younger cats say they want me to get involved with their projects, so everything is good. It sounds good. Touring is something I enjoy doing. Going into the studio, recording used to be fun, but music really doesn’t sell the way it used to. So putting everything into a [recorded] project that no one will know about isn’t any fun. But stepping on stage, performing for your fans, for young people, for people that dig the catalog … that’s amazing to me and I plan to keep on doing it.