Slick Rick, the ruler, was well known for his rapping style, a storytelling heavy version of New York City nightclub Hip Hop full of humor and hubris. It is as if his rapping is much less aggressive than that of most rappers and songs such as “Children’s Story” and “La Di Da Di.”
Dana Dane, on the other hand, is not. He released an album Dana Dane with Fame of the very same style a year before Slick Rick’s first album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.
What could possibly possess this culture to listen to two rappers with similar rap styles and enter one into the Pantheon of Hip Hop because of this style while relegating the other one to cultish obscurity? Well, Slick was the funnier and more eccentrically dressed rapper; Dana Dane’s stories aren’t as facile as Slick Rick’s. The same goes for his visual aesthetic.
Dana Dane’s debut album Dana Dane with Fame, produced by Herb ‘Luv Bug’ Azor, a Haitian American producer, is a 9 song album released on Profile Records, one of the major record labels of what’s now considered to be “Golden Age Hip Hop.” Slick Rick’s first and subsequent albums were released on Def Jam, also during “Golden Age Hip Hop.” He would go on to release four albums in total, whereas Dana released three and one best of. Slick Rick’s albums have gone platinum, whereas Dane Dane’s most successful release, his first album, has done much worse relatively, only going gold.
They were high school friends and both belonged to a hip hop crew, The Kangol Crew, before becoming professional rappers. It is probably why their rapping styles are similar. The similarities in their songs are striking, though their differences may have made one song popular and not the other. The song “Cinderfella Dana Dane” begins with ‘Once upon a time’ as Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” does also. They are both fairy tales about a boy, though Dana’s is an autobiography. Slick Rick’s story is constructed almost like a fairy tale (in a land / where justice stood / there lived a little boy) whereas Dana Dane’s story has the qualities of a noir film, as if listening to Spike Lee’s movie Crooklyn. Dana raps with much more hubris in “Cinderfella Dana Dane,” which makes Slick Rick’s story easier on the listener and much, much, less of a boast. What’s fascinating is that nor and boastful Hip Hop is now in vogue but in 1987, when “Cinderfella Dana Dane” was released, may have not liked noir and boasting as much.
Considering the song “Delancy Street” may give us the key to our enigma. Stylistically, “Delancey Street” is very similar to the poignant and chill drum kit beats of Slick Rick’s songs. The song is that of a complex narrative, as that occurs on hip New York City named Delancey Street all the while Like Rick, he raps with humor, Unlike Rick, however, he delivers us a extremely complex and long narrative that cannot be listened as easily as “La Di Da Di” or “Children’s Story” and requires serious concentration to its lyrical nooks and crannies on the first try. Like Rick, he raps with hubris and we hear a young woman sing that ‘Dana’s Dane’s / my man.’ However, Dane’s song is hard to rap or bop one’s head along to without missing what he has just said. That the “Nightmares” is similar to “Delancy Street” in its narrative complexity and points us to the answer: Slick’s music was easier on the ears.
Visual style and facility for the listener means a lot in the determination of who will be a musical legend. Miles Davis’s music is much less complex and revolutionary than Ornette Coleman’s but in popular culture, Miles is much better known. Though he was popular in his day, Dana Dane is not as well known as Slick Rick today and it is surely because, in the end, Slick Rick’s songs were better for every day of his times of cookouts, outdoors parties, and other entertainments wherein youngsters and adventuring adults seek a good time.
Regardless, Dana Dane with Fame should be considered the precursor in recorded music of the style that has made Slick Rick a legend for his singularity in rap.