Born – Kurt Walker
August 9, 1959 (age 53)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Occupation – rapper, record producer
Kurt Walker (born August 9, 1959), professionally known by his stage name Kurtis Blow, is an American rapper and record producer. He is the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label. “The Breaks”, a single from his 1980 debut album, is the first certified gold record rap song.
Life and career
In 1979, aged twenty, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to be signed by a major label, Mercury, which released “Christmas Rappin'”. It sold over 400,000 copies. Its follow-up, “The Breaks”, sold over half a million copies. He was also the first rapper to perform overseas. He released ten albums over the next eleven years. His first album was Kurtis Blow, while his second was the Top 50 pop album Deuce. Party Time featured a fusion of rap and go-go. Ego Trip included the hits: “8 Million Stories,” “AJ Scratch,” and “Basketball”. His 1985 album, America, garnered praise for its title track’s music video. From this album, the song “If I Ruled the World” became a Top 5 hit on Billboard’s R&B chart. In 1996, fellow rapper Nas debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a cover version of the song.
Besides his own work, Kurtis has been responsible for hits by The Fat Boys and Run DMC. Run began his career billed as ‘The Son of Kurtis Blow.’ Lovebug Starski, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Full Force, Russell Simmons and Wyclef Jean all have been produced by, or have worked with, Kurt. Former label mates René & Angela had their R&B chart topping debut “Save Your Love (For #1)” gift rapped by Kurt.
Along with Dexter Scott King, Kurt co-ordinated “King Holiday,” a song to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. The Mercury/Polygram single, co-produced by Kurt, included the collaborative efforts of Stephanie Mills, Whitney Houston, New Edition, El Debarge, James “JT” Taylor, The Fat Boys, Menudo (Ricky Martin), Teena Marie and Run DMC. The music video was sponsored and paid for by Prince.
Kurt’s acting performances and music coordination in several films includes Leon Kennedy’s Cry of the City and the hip hop film Krush Groove. The New York Daily News called his cinematic works, “Noteworthy, a dynamic presence.” As host and co-producer for Das Leben Amerikanischer Gangs, an international film production’s focus on the West Coast gang scene, Kurt crossed international waters for inner city justice (1995). As host and associate producer for Rhyme and Reason Kurtis gives an informative account of the status of hip hop (1998). The History Of Rap, which he produced and wrote, has been planned for a cinema release.
Kurt has spoken out emphatically against racism. He was an active participant in the Artists Against Apartheid record “Sun City”. Kurt has worked with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push and the Rainbow Coalition in Chicago. Kurt has also worked with Rev. Al Sharpton’s Action Network in New York City. In 1995, he started working on-air in radio, Power 106, the #1 CHR radio station in Southern California. He hosted ‘The Old School Show’ on Sunday nights, featuring hits from the past. He also worked for Sirius Satellite Radio on the Classic Old School Hip Hop station Backspin on Channel 46.
Beginning in 1996, Kurt was featured in a hip hop display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The display still stands. In 1998, the group Next released “Too Close”, in which the music of “Christmas Rappin'” was sampled. ASCAP honored Kurt and Next at a gala affair on May 26, 1999. In 2002, he traveled to the Middle East to tour the Armed Forces bases performing seventeen shows for the troops. The tour consisted of shows in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. Kurt said, “It was a tour I will never forget,” and “I did the Bob Hope thing.”
Kurt was a judge for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards.
Deeply committed to Christianity, Kurtis teaches ministry classes at Nyack College. As Founder of The Hip Hop Church, Kurtis serves as rapper, DJ, worship leader and licensed minister. He became an ordained minister on August 16, 2009. There are several hip hop churches in the US, and he is involved with many of them. “Don’t get it twisted, God has always existed,” said Kurtis, “and in terms of these young people out here who love Jesus but do not like to go to church, maybe hip hop can bring them back to the church.”
References in popular culture
The They Might Be Giants song “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” on their second album, Lincoln, featured the lines “You’re free to come and go/Or talk like Kurtis Blow.”
The Ice Cube song “Now I Gotta Wet ‘Cha” featured the line “I’ll Kurtis Blow yo ass away/Like AJ”.
The R.A. the Rugged Man song “L.I.’s Finest” featured the line “These are the breaks like Kurtis.” and his song “On the Block (Golden Era)” features the line “At the roller rink no skates on, early 80’s girl chasing, Kurtis Blow these are the breaks on.”
The Tom Tom Club song “Genius of Love” featured the lines “Steppin’ to the rhythm of a Kurtis Blow / Who needs to think when your feet just go.”
The song “Christmas Rappin'” was featured during a Christmas episode of the TV sitcom Martin.
Bruce Haack’s 1982 single “Party Machine” featured the lyric, “Low low low like Kurtis Blow/ Down down down like James Brown.”
The song “Music Matters” by Faithless mentioned Kurtis Blow: “From Bamma Lamma to Tamla Mo, Curtis Mayfield to Kurtis Blow”.
Blow is mentioned in the film Notorious. When The Notorious B.I.G. was a child, he is shown to be a fan of Blow. As an adult, The Notorious B.I.G. sings Blow’s “The Breaks” with his young daughter listening and learning it.
The 2Pac song “Old School” featured the line “Remember poppin’ and lockin’ to Kurtis Blow, the name belts”.
In the fourth chapter of Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan says he knew Blow, and that it was Blow who introduced Dylan to the rap genre of the time (mentioning contemporary artists like Ice-T, N.W.A. and Public Enemy). Dylan also appears on the first track “Street Rock” of Kurtis Blows 1986 album Kingdom Blow
A brief reference to “8 Million Stories” was made in the 2009 hit “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z.
In 50 Cent’s film debut “Get Rich Or Die Tryin”, there is a party scene in Marcus’s house where two girls are holding a Kurtis Blow album and are singing lyrics from “The Breaks”.
In Chris Rock’s movie “CB4”, MC Gusto says he’s going to send a search party and find Kurtis Blow.
In the video game NBA 2K12, “Basketball” is used in the opening video and is also part of the game’s soundtrack.
A poster of Kurtis Blow can be seen in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris. The episode is Everybody Hates Houseguest.
“The Breaks” is a featured song on the game Dance Central 2 for the Xbox Kinect.
In Cedric The Entertainer’s Starting Lineup, Cedric speculates on having a black president. After some comparisons of Bill Clinton’s behaviors, he predicts that, Scooby Doo-like, Clinton will remove a mask, to reveal he is Kurtis Blow.
In Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s duet “History of Rap”, they sample the opening line to “The Breaks.”
The Lady Antebellum song “Perfect Day” mentions a bonfire party where “everybody was singin’ along/ to some Ramblin’ Man, a little Kurtis Blow and all them feel-good songs.”
Kurtis Blow (1980, Mercury)
Deuce (1981, Mercury)
Tough (1982, Mercury)
The Best Rapper on the Scene (1983, Mercury)
Ego Trip (1984, Mercury)
America (1985, Mercury)
Kingdom Blow (1986, Mercury)
Back by Popular Demand (1988, Mercury)
30th Anniversary of The Breaks CD – Krush Records – 2010
Gospel albums/Collaboration albums or mixtapes
Kurtis Blow Presents: Hip Hop Ministry (2007, EMI Gospel)
Just Do It (2008, Krush Groove/Trinity/B4 Ent.) (with The Trinity)
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (2009, Krush Groove/Trinity/B4 Ent.) (with The Trinity)
The Breaks (1986, Polygram)
The Best of Kurtis Blow (1994, Mercury)
Best of… Rappin’ (2002, Spectrum Music)
20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kurtis Blow (2003, Mercury)
Singles and EPs
1979: “Christmas Rappin'” (Mercury MDS-4009)
1980: “The Breaks” (Mercury MDS 4010)
1982: “Tough EP” (Mercury)
1983: “Party Time?” (Mercury)
1983: “Nervous” (Mercury)
1984: “Ego Trip” (Mercury)
1986: “The Bronx” (Mercury)
1988: “Back By Popular Demand” (Mercury)
1984 ” Basketball”
Red Everything Movement