Big Daddy Kane was there at the beginning.
The artist, aka Antonio Hardy, came up in Brooklyn's burgeoning hip-hop scene during the mid-1980s.
"It was the new thing in the neighborhood," he recalled during a recent phone interview.
Kane joined the rap group Juice Crew with Craig G, Masta Ace and Kool G Rap. He quickly distinguished himself as a standout emcee and lyricist.
On Friday, Aug. 29, he'll visit York for the Labor Day weekend Throwback Bash at the 11th Avenue Banquet and Entertainment Venue. The next day, he'll take stage at Jay-Z's Made in America festival in Philadelphia.
Kane hails from hip-hop's golden era along with Doug E. Fresh, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C. and various other '80s-era crews from Brooklyn and neighboring boroughs.
"I was basically writing about what was going on ... in the hood and the world at that time," Kane said. "(Writing) was something that came naturally to me."
Kane's 1988 debut featured the song "Ain't No Half Steppin,' " which recently landed on Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time list. In 1990, he earned a Grammy for "Back on the Block" with Ice-T, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, Quincy D. III and Quincy Jones.
"I tried to take everything as a lesson," Kane said about working with other artists in the game. "I would sit with them and take everything in."
As a solo artist, Kane developed his showman style with theatrical elements and flashy threads.
"Everyone talks about the way I dressed," he added. "I was basically being me."
As rap started to catch on, artists began to earn big paychecks and flaunt their wealth with jewels and cars. But those items didn't become the subjects of songs until later, Kane said.
Back then, hip-hop had a conscience.
Things have changed.
"It's really commercial now," Kane said of the current state of rap. "The grass roots — you don't get that anymore. (Most of the music is) pretty much a standard written song with a catchy hook."
But Kane, who started rapping before members of the current generation of hip-hop heavy hitters were born, said he sticks to what works for him. He credits his fans and a love of the craft for keeping him in the industry for nearly 30 years.
He's currently working on a project for his fans and is part of this summer's "Masters of Ceremony Hip-Hop Reunion Tour" with DMX, Naughty By Nature, Rakim and Biz Markie.
And later this fall, he returns to a hometown venue he's sold out in the past — The Apollo Theater.
Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.