Black Music Month: Kurtis Blow

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 12th, 889@Night is highlighting Kurtis blow.

In a world full of duplicates and copycats, Kurtis Blow’s 1980 single “The Breaks” became the first hip-hop record to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Born Kurt Walker on August 9th, 1959 in Harlem, New York, Walker would continue to live and attend school in New York till his adulthood. In grade school, a young Kurtis Walker would get his first practice as a DJ asking people at his parents parties what songs they would like to hear. By the time he turned thirteen, he was sneaking into nightclubs just to listen to the DJs spin their sets. Kurtis’ love for music had him enroll in the Harlem High School of Music and Art in 1975, but he would get expelled for selling marijuana. He then attended another high school where he would once again get caught for selling narcotics, this time PCP. However, the dean saw through this tough gangster face and saw Kurtis’ true intelligence; instead of expelling him, he gave him the opportunity to take the General Equivalency Degree (which Kurtis would pass).

By the end of the 1970s, Kurtis (now performing as Kool DJ Kurt) had disenchanted with the sameness of the music on the club scene. “Everything merged into one colorless sea of sound,” he recalled in an interview. “We, the deejays, had to do something to make our shows a little bit different… a little unique.” That new unique style became Hip-Hop. By the age of twenty in 1979, Walker would sing a major label deal with Mercury Records (now a subsidiaries of Universal Music Group) under the moniker Kurtis Blow.

Kurtis Blow’s first single was entitled “Christmas Rappin” and sold over 400,000 copies. However, his follow-up single, “The Breaks”, would sell over half a million copies, thus certifying Blow’s position on top. The song would reach #87 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart, and #9 on the U.S. Billboard dance chart. With his growing popularity, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to perform overseas. Blow would continue to score hits with his second album Deuce. This album would be different than the first because of its new fusion sound of rap and go-go music. This album peaked at #35 on the R&B charts. Blow would release two more albums after Deuce; Tough and Best Rapper on the Scene did okay, but was saw a vast drop in popularity until his 1984 album Ego Trip. This album would spawn the world-renowned song “Basketball” – a six minute and thirty second song about everything Kurtis Blow enjoys about basketball. This single would peak at #71 on the Hot 100 list. Another single off the album, “8 Million Stories” featuring hip-hop super triumvirate Run-DMC, would do better and reach #45 on the Hot black Singles chart currently know as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop.

By 1985 Kurtis Blow had released five albums and had already finished recording his sixth. His sixth album, America, saw Blow’s last hit, “If I ruled the World”. The song would become Blow’s last hit song due to the shift of style in the hip-hop community. Nevertheless, “If I Ruled the World” would be Blow’s greatest overseas hit. The song would also be featured on the soundtrack to one of hip-hops most influence and pivotal movies – Krush Groove – in which Kurtis Blow served a roll. Besides pioneering and writing his own work, Blow has been responsible for other hits from 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 collaborated with, Blow.

Kurtis Blow is currently following his faith by making gospel rap music. As the Founder of The Hip Hop Church, Kurtis serves as MC, DJ, worship leader, and became an ordained minister on August 16th, 2009. He would release three gospel records: Kurtis Blow Presents: Hip-Hop Ministry in 2007, Just Do It in 2008 and Father, Son and Holy Ghost in 2009. Since then, Blow hasn’t released a new album or single. With more then thirty years in the hip-hop industry, Blow has became a forefather to the current rappers of today.

By Mike Johnson

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To all WERS Members & Volunteers

THANK YOU! We had an awesome Live Music Week because of you! We exceeded our goal of 1000 donors and we couldn’t have done it without your support! We are working on sending your gifts now and you can expect to have them in 4 to 6 weeks. If you have any questions or concerns, […]