The Greatest Rap Battle That Never Was: Big Daddy Kane Versus Rakim

When people talk about the greatest MC’s of all time, many mention Jay Z, Nas, Tupac, Biggie or Eminem. But the MC’s that probably influenced them all are most likely Big Daddy Kane or Rakim.

Now of course Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, KRS-1, LL Cool J, Grand Master Caz, Melly Mel N.W.A. and many more have their places set in stone as pioneers, but with all due respect these two men ruled the late ’80’s known as hip-hop’s golden era. Kane was the smooth operator with slick and witty rhymes while Rakim was the intellectual God MC that spit lyrical scriptures. Both men till this day are spoken of like folk heroes about their exploits on the mic. With these two being at the forefront of that era, the conversation always comes up “Who was better?” Kane or Rakim Allah? And when I ask my peers I get mixed responses and rightfully so. Honestly it’s whatever your preference is. First there’s Rakim; Ra used a relaxed stoic flow painting vivid pictures and stories.Then you have Daddy Kane who was the battle rapper or as some call it the traditional MC who could rhyme circles around you with punch lines and showmanship. Sounds like two MC’s we know right?

Big Daddy Kane versus Rakim never officially happened but apparently these two legends did have a couple bars for each other. The story has been told over and over again. Rakim caught wind of Big Daddy Kanes “Set It Off” track from 1988’s Long Live The Kane. Kane famously rapped “Rap soloist? You don’t want none of this.” Now beside this being an obvious jab, the public took the line and ran with it. Rakim at the time was Mr. Untouchable after dropping “Eric B. Is President” in ’87. Ra rapped , “And you know I’m the soloist.” So obviously hearing Kane take the jab the hip hop world was begging for Rakim to retaliate and put Kane in his place. Now a days with internet and social media this could of caused a world wind of maybe some of rap’s best rhymes ever but it all came to a screeching halt after one phone call. Eric B’s brother, Ant Live who was in Kane’s camp let him hear Rakim’s new track “Follow the Leader,” and legend has it Rakim had two or three bars specifically for Kane. Kane wanted to squash this immediately, so he got Ra on the phone and explained his ‘Soloist’ bar was just a coincidence (Yeah Right!) and he had no problems with the God. Ra listened and agreed to take the bars out and not let the public escalate an issue that wasn’t there. And there you have it the “Greatest Rap Battle” that never happened, but I have a HUGE problem with this. I’ve seen recent interviews were Kane says Ra would’ve been “No Competition.”. So why make that phone call and squash it? Why not get in the booth and give the public what they wanted?

This was twenty something years ago, but I feel cheated till this day. I really want to know if Kane would’ve handled himself as well as he says he would’ve. Hip Hop is based off battles; the best of the best going bar for bar, rhyme for rhyme and letting the crowd decide the victor. Maybe Kane was scared knowing Ra had very strong ties to the Five Percenter organization and they wouldn’t take too kindly to Kane making fun of their champion. Maybe Kane calling and speaking his peace was enough for Ra to let it go. Did both MC’s realize the power they held and knew the battle wouldn’t stay on wax? This great debate will go on forever and in all reality this rap battle that never was is still better than battles that actually occurred. Now all we can do is compare their legacies and bodies of work. I’m pretty sure seeing the way things turned ugly with Big and Pac it’s better that these two spoke on the phone and squashed whatever differences they had. These two greats are immortals in the hip hop world, but just imagine what could of been. The landscape of hip hop could be completely different now, if Big Daddy Kane versus Rakim actually went down, we will never know.