Big Daddy Kane and Rakim: Hip-Hop Royalty at the Howard Theatre

Article by Sharon Berry and Photography by Nicholas Fullen

If the line that wrapped around the historical Howard Theatre on the evening of October 8, 2015, for the Big Daddy Kane and Rakim show was any indication, their fans are as diverse as their songs. Old Heads and young folks of all descriptions waited anxiously outside in the cool air of an early autumn night to experience two of the Legends of Hip-Hop in concert. Two legends who proved they can still deliver the goods.

Sporting a light grey suit and bright pastel shirt with a bow tie, Big Daddy Kane got it in with dance moves that rivaled artists half his age. He roused his fans with favorites that included Ain’t No Half Steppin’, Warm it Up, Kane, I Get the Job Done, Raw, and Smooth Operator.

M.C. Rakim opted for a more laid back look sporting jeans, Timberland boots, tan jacket, and matching wool cap. He hyped the Howard with his hits I Ain’t No Joke, Don’t Sweat the Technique, and Paid in Full – for starters. He succeeded to not only Move the Crowd, but allowed the crowd to move him – as Rakim delivered himself into the arms of his biggest fans, not just once, but twice. The appreciative crowd showed their love by carefully handling the skilled emcee.

Tray Chaney from The Wire fame rounded out the evening’s performances. One of the most poignant moments of the evening wasn’t a performance at all, but the appearance of the mother of the late J Dilla, a prolific record producer and beloved hip-hop artist. The acknowledgement of her attendance was well-received and made it clear that her son had left his mark on the genre’s landscape.

Hip-hop has a landscape that has changed over time and seen artists come and go. But as Big Daddy Kane and Rakim proved Thursday night, its roots are deep and as relevant as ever. Witnessing these artists onstage, offstage, and backstage gave a rare glimpse into the passion and drive that have propelled both of their careers and keep the faithful coming back for more.

We’d like to thank Gearmi Thompson for this opportunity to experience the talents of true living legends.