Welcome to the third installment of our Was the B Side Better? series. With this series, we revisit some of the biggest Hip Hop singles, do a subjective listen to both sides of the 12′ inch, and decide whether the B-side is just as strong or stronger than the more popular A-side. Trust, that in no case do we expect a blowout but we do expect an enthusiastic trip through our Hip Hop memories.
I apologize. I spoke too soon – this is a blowout.
In 1988, I was introduced to Big Daddy Kane via Biz Markie’s “Going Off” video. Once I heard Biz’s verse about him in “The Vapors,” I was compelled to buy Kane’s album. That purchase cemented him as one of my lifelong heroes. His legendary status exceeds my fandom and positions him amongst the culture’s giants. To me, Kane is to Hip Hop what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is to the NBA. I can go further with the Hip Hop and NBA analogies (shout out to the Public Enemy linear notes that started this!):
Kane – > Kareem
Rakim -> Bill Russell
KRS One -> Wilt Chamberlin
Grandmaster Caz -> Elgin Baylor
Jay Z -> Michael Jordan
Nas -> Isiah Thomas
Black Thought -> Magic Johnson
Phonte -> Hakeem Olajuwon
Kendrick -> LeBron
J. Cole -> Carmelo
Big KRIT -> Dwayne Wade
Tobe Nwigwe -> Zion Williamson
But back to Kane and how his verses are money like Kareem’s skyhook. I was introduced to Kane by listening to the entire album. Many were introduced to him via “Raw” and if that ain’t an all-time memorable ‘I remember where I was’ introduction than I don’t know what is. This cat “is so full of action (his) name should be a verb.”
For me, Long Live The Kane was the first album I memorized. The first album where I wrote all the lyrics. I know every pause, inflection – everything. Which tells how I came to enjoy “I’ll Take You There” and in spite of all the effusive feelings I have for the album, I recognized that song as a filler. If this was the only song you ever heard from Kane, you would mistake him and the Fresh Prince as peers on the mic.
They are not. “I’ll Take You There” is a feel-good song that goes well in the context of an album. But in no way ever should it had been released as a single. Yet, that transgression was atoned for with the B-side smash, “Wrath of Kane.”
If you became a Kane fan because of “Raw” then “Wrath of Kane” was the song you were hoping for on his second album. Let’s take a moment to respect these bars:
The man at hand to rule and school and teach
And reach the blind to find their way from A to Z
And be the most and boast the loud and proud
The Kane’ll reign your domain
That’s MCing! Not nonsense rhymes, but straight fire bars. He has rhyme schemes tucked within rhyme schemes. Only a few cats could come close to rhyming on that level. Not convinced? How about:
Line by line, chapter after chapter
Like a pimp on the street, I gotta rap to
Those who chose to oppose, friend or foes
I still dispose, and blow ’em out like afros
So many rappers have fronted to get a name out
Yelling and screaming and dreaming but still came out
Off the wall and butter soft to y’all
So you waited for Kane to come forth to all
Competition, that bite and chew and crunch and munch
To play me out position, you on a mission
So stop lying and trying to front adventures
Your rhymes are more false than dentures
Here is a fact: “Wrath of Kane” was so fire, it was released as an A-side months after being a B-side. I don’t know how often that happens, but I do know that when we talk about the metaphorical Mount Rushmore of MCing, Kane is there. The “Wrath of Kane” is proof that Kane wasn’t half steppin’ on the mic.
I can see how the “record label” pushed “I’ll Take You There”. Wrath of Kane was before its time.