Real Name: Curtis Walker
D.O.B: August 9, 1959, Harlem New York
Kurtis Blow stands as a towering figure in the roots of hip-hop and is considered to be the breakthrough artist of mainstream media. A Pioneer of the recording industry, Blow had strong charisma and magnetism that was apparent throughout his career and was the first artist to record a full length album with a major recording label. The first to have a certified gold laying down one of the greatest hip-hop dance tracks of the genre, ‘The Breaks’ from 1979, an undisputed classic with its catchy disco tune and flowing rap style. He was also the first to embark on a national and international concert tour as well as becoming the first to certify the marketability of hip-hop in the mainstream with an endorsement deal. He had become the main focal point and mentor to the aspiring undergraduates of the genre. Kurtis Blow’s main influence was DJ Hollywood. He would later team up with renowned DJ for Busy Bee, DJ AJ to become a lethal duo in the force of hip-hop.
Born Curtis Walker in Harlem in 1959, he was a notable contributor to the earliest stages of the culture through the late 70’s evolving with the four seasons of hip-hop. First as a b-boy, then moving on to becoming a DJ at local block-parties and clubs performing under the name Kool DJ Kurt, at the stage of 1976 he was enrolled at CCNY in 1976, and served as program director for the college radio station. It was at 1977 where he graduated to performing as an MC and changed his name to Kurtis Blow,(as in a body blow) a suggestion from his then manager, the insightful Russell Simmons the future Def Jam powerhouse founder. With Simmons’ connections he was introduced professionally to legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash, and for a time his regular DJ was Simmons' teenage brother Joseph who at the time carried the identity of ‘Son of Kurtis Blow,’ who would go on to become the first half of Run-D.M.C. During ’77-78 Blow’s gigs at Harlem and Bronx clubs shaped his career and made him an underground sensation. Billboard magazine writer, Robert Ford approached Simmons with the idea of making a record for Kurtis. This eventuated in a cut called ‘Christmas Rappin’’ co-written by Ford and financier J.B. Moore. This helped him get a recording contract with Mercury Records.
Blow’s second single proved to be his greatest recorded performance and is lived on today as a pioneering classic in which to set the bar to. ‘The Breaks’ was an instantaneous smash hit, a revolutionary track provided to the freshly popped mainstream anticipating the next cultural outburst after the revolutionary ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was released. The Breaks reached the Top 5 of the R&B charts in 1980 and eventually went gold. It remains as one of rap’s most innovative blueprints to date. The first full-length album of Blow’s was also released that year and was received with a Top 10 spot in the R&B charts. The impoverished struggle track, ‘Hard Times’ marked the beginning of hip-hop’s reporting of their social consciousness. This is the same track later covered by Run DMC. Despite releasing an album almost every year of the 80’s Kurtis never surpassed the success of ‘The Breaks’ era. ‘81’s ‘Deuce’ and ‘82’s ‘Tough’ albums were not big sellers in the market.
By 1983 Blow tried his hand at producing working with a variety of hip-hop and R&B artists. His better known protégés were the Fat Boys, helping them obtain a record deal and producing most of their records. 1984’s ‘Ego Trip’ LP sold reasonably well on the strength of the DJ tribute track, ‘AJ Scratch,’ ‘basketball’ and the Run DMC collaboration, ‘8 Million Stories’. Blow soon landed himself an appearance on the cult classic film about the rising entrepreneurial account of his manager, and Def Jam CEO Russell Simmons, ‘Krush Groove’ in which he performed ‘If I Ruled the World’ which became his biggest hit since The Breaks and marked the last chapter of Blow’s popularity as the rapid evolution of hip-hop culture gave no mercy to the old schoolers maintaining the now outdated flow. His later albums in ’85 and ’86 ‘America’ and ‘Kingdom Blow’ respectively was greeted coldly despite producing a final chart blow with ‘I’m Chillin’’. Critics tore down his last breath comeback attempt in 1988 with ‘Back By Popular Demand’ album proving the title misleading as Kurtis Blow finally conceded defeat and stepped back out of the light.
Kurtis continued the old school spirit in the early ‘90s by contributing rap material to television soap opera, One Live to Live and spent several years back on the radio hosting an old school show in Los Angeles radio station Power 106. By ’97 Rhino Records took advantage of his place in the almanac books of hip-hop and hired him to produce, compile and write liner notes for the three volume series ‘Kurtis Blow presents the History of Rap’ . Later that year he was a significant presence in the rap documentaries ‘Rhyme and Reason’ and ‘The Show’. Kurtis collaborated with Bob Dylan on his 1986 album, ‘Kingdom Blow’. And in 2004 he recorded the song ‘Hey Everybody’ with Max C and Bomfunk MC’s for their album, ‘Reverse Psychology’.Blow’s music has always been appreciated by the younger generation of superstars who pay tribute to the forefather.
At his very best, Blow epitomizes the virtues of the old school: ingratiating, strutting party music that captures the exuberance of an art form still in its youth. A statesman of the art form who hacked down the path and proved there is plenty of room in the market for the mass appeal of rap music in the mainstream. Today only proves Kurtis Blow’s career to be prophetic. For this he earns his place standing tall in the history of hip-hop.
- 1980 Kurtis Blow
- 1981 Deuce
- 1982 Tough
- 1983 Party Time(EP)
- 1984 Ego Trip (w. ‘Basketball’ & ‘If I Ruled the World’ + Run DMC)
- 1984 Rapper In Town
- 1985 America
- 1986 Kingdom Blow
- 1988 Back by Popular Demand