How Homophobia Destroyed a Rap Legend’s Career

Excerpt” The Playgirl shoot was a step beyond anything even LL Cool J had done before, and Kane followed it with another moment of notoriety: his appearance in Madonna’s 1992 book SEX. Posing in sexual photos with Madonna and supermodel Naomi Campbell, Kane had reached a very rare space in pop culture—but it was one that left fans confused and critical. And those two moments had occurred with a particularly ugly rumor lingering in the background of Big Daddy Kane’s career in the early ‘90s.

There were those out-of-nowhere whispers that Kane was HIV positive. The gossip started in New York City and spread amongst rap fans around the U.S.

“AIDS hit rap back in ’89/’90 when a rumor gained momentum,” dream hampton wrote back in 1996. “The streets of New York City were abuzz with news that Big Daddy Kane was dying of AIDS. That he’d been a closeted bisexual playing straight playboy all along. The rumor proved to be untrue but fatal to Kane’s career. In a moment that was embarrassing for us all, Kane stood onstage at a free concert organized to register voters in Harlem and declared his negative status and his heterosexuality. His career never quite recovered from that moment.”

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