Big Daddy Kane Says Jay-Z's Flow and Image Kept Labels From Signing Him Early

Kane worked with Jay in the early '90s and tried to get him a record deal.

Two men, one wearing a polo shirt, the other in a cap and glasses, seated separately in what appears to be a sports event
(Photo by Richard Bord / Getty Images), (Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)
Two men, one wearing a polo shirt, the other in a cap and glasses, seated separately in what appears to be a sports event

Big Daddy Kane has revealed he had trouble helping Jay-Z get a deal because labels weren't sold on his flow or image.

During a conversation with The Art of Dialogue, the legendary Brooklyn rapper reflected on the time he was working with a young Hov and was asked if labels really weren't trying to give him a deal. According to Kane, the labels didn't believe in his skill, but it worked for Jay in the long run. 

"This was, I want to say, '90 or '91. We recorded some songs, probably about four or five songs on Jay-Z and shot them to several different record label labels, and they all passed. They all passed, you know, none of them could see the vision," Kane said at the beginning of the clip. 

The "Smooth Operator" rapper stated he was glad that Jay didn't sign with those labels because he didn't think he would be "as successful" and "the billionaire that he is" if any of the deals went through. At the time, Jay had a rapid-fire flow that was trendy but soon fizzled out, and Kane claimed his fellow Brooklynite wouldn't have found success if he came out with that flow instead of taking his time and figuring out the artist he wanted to be.

"He got on his, you know, his gangster hustler, the rest was history," Kane continued. "I'm glad I didn't get him a deal because what he did on his own and figured out, that was the ticket. That was the right move and it made him, you know, the, the hip hop legend that he is today. The label's issue with him was his flow. It was like with some people they didn't like the flow with some people. They didn't like the image."

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Elsewhere in the conversation, Kane explained that he never thought Jay would reach the heights that he did given who was when he first started working with him. Kane began working with Jay after meeting him through fellow Brooklyn native and rapper Jaz-O with whom he was making a mixtape with. Jaz asked if Jay could hop on a few songs and Kane allowed it and saw potential in Jay's talent.

People were asking Kane to get Jaz a record deal but he opted to work with Jay and get him one instead. Kane would eventually let Jay and another up and coming rapper named Positive K perform on stage while he took an intermission from his show. At the time Kane had Jay-Z, Positive K, and another rapper named Sauce Money under his wing but Jay was the quietest one out the bunch.

Big Daddy Kane schooling Jay Z

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"Pos and Sauce Money, they had a lot of character and Pos knew how to perform, he was funny as hell you know very charismatic," Kane said in his conversation with VladTV. "Sauce just a arrogant, sarcastic dude with a real slick tongue. So I felt like they had a whole of potential. Jay was more quiet. But I mean I learned that Jay was being quiet because he was taking notes." 

He added, "He was taking notes, observing everything, taking it all in, you know, because, you know, sometimes you around and you're watching to see things to do, but some people are around watching, seeing what not to do, you get it? I think that that's the intelligence of a Jay-Z."

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