25. Big Daddy Kane, 'Ain’t No Half Steppin''
Long Live the Kane, 1988
When Jay-Z christened Brooklyn's new Barclays Center arena earlier this year with a series of eight straight shows, he brought out only one guest rapper to share his stage: Bed-Stuy native Big Daddy Kane. And for good reason. Antonio Hardy was the master wordsmith of rap's late-golden age and a huge influence on a generation of MCs. On "Ain't No Half Steppin'," his tone is rich and commanding as he rocks tightly coiled extended metaphors over Marley Marl's laid-back groove (based around the Emotions' fine 1972 cut "Blind Alley"): "Rappers, you better be/Ready to die because you're petty/You're just a butter knife, I'm a machete." Legend has it that even the Eighties' greatest rapper, Rakim, turned down a challenge to go mic-to-mic with Kane.