Kurtis Blow - Biography

As the first rapper to sign with a major label and embark on national and international tours, Kurtis Blow was the first rap superstar and as such derves more credit than any other rapper for bringing hip-hop to the masses.


Kurtis Blow was born Kurtis Walker in Harlem in 1959. In 1972, he first entered the hip-hop scene as a B-boy and shortly after as a DJ, adopting the moniker "Kool DJ Kurt." In 1976, he enrolled at City College of New York where he found work at the college's radio station as program director. In 1977, he changed his name to Kurtis Blow. During that time he befriended fellow future rap superstars Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Russell Simmons. Simmons became Blow's manager and his younger brother Joey, then calling himself "Son of Kurtis Blow" DJed for him before changing his name to Run and going on to form Run-D.M.C.


After college, Blow performed around Harlem and the Bronx for the next couple years when a Billboard writer, Robert Ford, approach Simmons about making a record in the wake of the Sugar Hill Gang's surprise hit, "Rapper's Delight." Blow's first single, 1979's "Christmas Rappin'," was co-written by Ford and J.B. Moore. Its success led to Blow signing a contract with Mercury, in the process becoming the first rapper to sign to a major. Ford and Moore collaborated again on "Rappin' Blow" but it wasn't until 1980's "The Breaks" that Blow had his first certified Gold hit.


Blow's debut full-length, Kurtis Blow (1980 Mercury), was another certified Gold and following its success Blow embarked on national and international tours (with The Commodores), another rap first. Although his success proved that rap was no mere flash in the pan, his follow-ups Deuce (1981 Mercury) and Tough (1982 Mercury) suggested that maybe he was. The Party Time EP (1983 Mercury) featured E.U. and introduced DC's go-go scene to a larger audience but by then, Blow was shifting into production mode, manning the boards for most of The Fat Boys' early work. Before the year ended, Blow did release another full-length, The Best Rapper on the Scene (1983 Mercury) although, despite its title, failed to impress a large audience. Ego Trip (1984 Mercury), with the hit single "Basketball" helped return Blow to the limelight and the following year he appeared in Krush Groove, in which he performed what became his biggest hit since "The Breaks," "If I Ruled the World."


After another commercial failure, America (1985 Mercury), Blow's career once again took a downturn. Kingdom Blow (1986 Mercury), despite providing a modest hit with "I'm Chillin'" was widely considered a failure although when he appeared in a memorable Sprite commercial, he became the first rapper to appear in a nationally televised advertisement. Back by Popular Demand (1988 Mercury) failed to live up to its braggadocios title and Blow afterward focused almost entirely on production. In 1991 and 1992, he came out of semi-retirement to write some rap segments for the soap opera One Life to Live. In 1995, he became a DJ at Los Angeles' Power 106, where he hosted The Old School Show. After his tenure there, he moved to the Sirius Satellite station, Classic Old School Hip Hop. More recently he attended ministry classes at Nyack College and became an ordained minister who in 2009 founded The Hip Hop Church.


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