One of hip-hop's first truly great writers, Big Daddy Kane released a string of virtuosic recordings—beginning with his 1988 debut album, Long Live the Kane
—that convinced rappers that time spent hunched over a lyric book is just as if not more important than time in front of the microphone. Kane wasn't the first MC to use challenging wordplay, to extend a thought beyond a single verse, or to rap about weightier subjects than his skill at rocking parties, but he combined all those approaches in such a supreme way—and with a flow that at the time was second perhaps only to Rakim's—that you can still hear his influence several generations of performers later. A few months ago I fell down a Spotify rabbit hole that led me to queue up the Long Live the Kane
single "Ain’t No Half Steppin’,"
and it sounded so perfect that I let Kane’s music keep playing for two complete albums. —Miles Raymer