Big Daddy Kane, an early mentor to Jay Z, says he worked to help break Hova in 1994.
"At that point in time, we were trying to shop Jay Z to get him a deal," Kane says in an interview with TheRealHip-Hop. "He was an artist I was working with at the time. With Ol’ Dirty [Bastard], me and Wu-Tang [Clan] did a show together at Newark Symphony Hall and after the show I told my people, 'I wanna meet that Ol’ Dirty Bastard dude and the little kid.' I went to their dressing room and they came to a party in Queens with me and hung out that night. Ever since, we were cool. Ol’ Dirty used to come out to Queens and spend the night at my crib a whole lot. Shyheim, I took him on the road with me on the Budweiser Superfest. He was like 15 years old, too young to be on a tour sponsored by a beer company [laughs]."
In June 2011, Kane also reflected on his time as Jay Z's mentor. “I would do half the show, and then I’d let Jay Z rhyme while I went in the back and changed outfits,” Kane said at the time. “Then I’d go back and finish the show.”
Big Daddy Kane, who has received acclaim throughout his career as an emcee, says some accolades are more meaningful to him than others.
"When somebody tells me, 'The Source magazine had you in the Top 5 emcees,' I’m like, 'Okay, that’s cool,'" Kane says. "The other four may not be who I consider dope emcees. If you got me with somebody who is there because they sold a whole bunch of records, or they’re popular, or a multimillionaire then I don’t really know if you know what really makes an emcee an emcee. Or somebody telling me, 'Rolling Stone had "Ain’t No Half-Steppin'" as one of the Top 50 Rap songs of all-time,' and I look at the list of songs I don’t really respect their judgment, either. But you know when somebody on the street says, 'You’re the reason I started rapping,' or 'I always thought you was the dopest emcee,' or 'Yo, you know you Top 3,' and then they say something like me, KRS[-One], and Rakim or Me, Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.], and [Kool] G Rap, that’s the stuff that I love to hear. That’s what means something to me."
In his book Decoded, Jay Z addressed his learning from Kane.
"I got an invaluable education watching him perform," Jay Z says in the book. "Even today, I use some of the ideas I picked up back then about pacing and performance in my own live show.”