Kurtis Blow

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Kurtis Blow
Kurtis Blow a.jpg
Blow in 2015
Background information
Birth name Kurtis Walker[1]
Born (1959-08-09) August 9, 1959 (age 58)
Harlem, New York City, New York, US
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, record producer, singer, DJ, BBoy, minister
Years active 1979–Present

Kurtis Walker (born August 9, 1959),[2] professionally known by his stage name Kurtis Blow, is an American rapper and record producer.[3] He is the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label.[1] "The Breaks", a single from his 1980 self-titled debut album, is the first certified gold record rap song. Throughout his career he has released 15 albums and is currently an ordained minister.[2]

Early life, family and education[edit]

Walker was raised in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, he attended CCNY and Nyack College, studying communications and then ministry.[1]


In 1979, aged twenty, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to be signed by a major label, Mercury, which released "Christmas Rappin'",[4] it sold over 500,000 copies.[5] Its follow-up, "The Breaks", also sold over half a million copies,[3] he was also the first rapper to perform overseas.[6] 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. Towards the end of the 1980s, his recording career waned and he moved into production.[4]

Besides his own work, Kurtis has been responsible for hits by The Fat Boys and Run DMC.[3] 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 collaborated with, Walker. Former label mates René & Angela had their R&B chart topping debut "Save Your Love (For #1)" was produced by him. Along with Dexter Scott King, Walker co-ordinated "King Holiday", a song to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, released in January 1986.

He performed as an actor and in music coordination in several feature films includes Leon Kennedy’s Knights of the City and the hip hop film Krush Groove,[4] he was host and co-producer for Das Leben Amerikanischer Gangs (1995), an international film production's focus on the West Coast gang scene. As host and associate producer for Rhyme and Reason, he gave an informative account of the status of hip hop, while he participated in the three volume release The History Of Rap in 1998.[4]

Blow has spoken out emphatically against racism, he was an active participant in the Artists Against Apartheid record “Sun City”. He worked with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation Push and National Rainbow Coalition in Chicago and 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 (Channel 46).

Beginning in 1996, Kurtis Blow was featured in a hip hop display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; in the same year, rapper Nas debuted at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his version of Blow's "If I Ruled The World".[2] 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, he was a judge for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards.[7]

In December 2014, Kurt was the Guest MC for the world premiere of The Hip Hop Nutcracker at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, a well received update of Tchaikovsky's holiday classic. A national tour of the show was scheduled to laiunch in November 2015 with Kurtis Blow reprising his role as Guest MC opening the show.


Blow was "born again" in 1994,[8] he became an ordained minister on August 16, 2009.

As the founder of The Hip Hop Church in Harlem,[1] Kurtis serves as rapper, DJ, worship leader and licensed minister.[9]

Personal life[edit]

In October 2016, Kurtis Blow went into cardiac arrest, he was saved by his son Michael who begged police officers to administer CPR when they arrived on the scene.[10]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • 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 '80s girl chasing, Kurtis Blow 'These are the Breaks' on."
  • The Tom Tom Club song "Genius of Love" featured the lines "Steppin' in a rhythm to 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 Blow's 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 hip hop mockumentary [[CB4, MC Gusto (played by Chris Rock) 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 the episode "Everybody Hates Houseguests" of Everybody Hates Chris.
  • "The Breaks" is a featured song on the game Dance Central 2 for the Xbox Kinect.
  • "The Breaks" is also a featured song on the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, on the radio station Wildstyle Pirate Radio.
  • 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.
  • On February 27, 2014, Jimmy Fallon and LeBron James performed "Wastepaper Basketball", a parody of Blow's "Basketball" music video.[11]
  • Snoop Dogg mentions Kurtis Blow and "The Breaks" in his song "Ups & Downs".
  • KRS-ONE opens his song "MCs Act Like They Don't Know" in a fashion mimicking that of "The Breaks"



Other albums[edit]

  • 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)
  • 30th Anniversary of The Breaks CD (2010, Krush Records)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • "Christmas Rappin'" (1979, Mercury MDS-4009)
  • "The Breaks" (1980, Mercury MDS 4010)
  • "Tough EP" (1982, Mercury)
  • "Party Time?" (1983, Mercury)
  • "Nervous" (1983, Mercury)
  • "Ego Trip" (1984, Mercury)
  • "Basketball" (1984, Mercury)
  • "The Bronx" (1986, Mercury)
  • "Back by Popular Demand" (1988, Mercury)
  • "Chillin' at the Spot" (1994, Public Attack)


  1. ^ a b c d Walker, Deborah (March 4, 2009). "Kurtis Blow Speaks at Nyack Rockland March 6". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Hess, Mickey (2009). Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide. Santa Barbara (CA): ABC-CLIO. pp. 34–35. ISBN 9780313343216. 
  3. ^ a b c Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 93. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  4. ^ a b c d Huey, Steve. "Kurtis Blow - Biography". billboard.com. Rovi. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ George, Nelson (1988). The Death of Rhythm & Blues. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. p. 191. ISBN 0142004081. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  6. ^ Negro, Benny. "Exclusive Interview with Kurtis Blow". Bcyde Video. YouTube. Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  7. ^ Independent Music Awards - Past Judges Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Ulibas, Joseph (October 29, 2014). "Old school hip-hop rapper Kurtis Blow is now performing to a different tune". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Rapper Turned Minister Kurtis Blow Is 50". NPR.org. August 9, 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  10. ^ Walker, Angus (6 November 2016). his son, wife(Prayers)-police-for-saving-him-from-dying for 5 minutes-news.25249.html? "Kurtis Blow cardiac arrest" Check |url= value (help). Hotnewhiphop.com. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Wastepaper Basketball". YouTube. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. February 27, 2014. 

External links[edit]