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. Throughout his career he has released 15 albums and is currently an ordained minister.
Life and career
Originally from Harlem, Walker began DJ'ing under the name Kool DJ Kurt. He was also a disco performer.
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 500,000 copies. Its follow-up, "The Breaks", also 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. Towards the end of the 1980s, his recording career waned and he moved into production.
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 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.
His acting performances and music coordination in several films includes Leon Kennedy’s Knights of the City and the hip hop film Krush Groove. 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 gave an informative account of the status of hip hop, while he participated in the three volume release The History Of Rap in 1998.
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 National 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. While in the same year, rapper Nas debuted at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his version of "If I Rule The World". 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.
In October 2016, he suffered a heart attack and was saved by police officers when they arrived on the scene.
As the 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. 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 will launch in November 2015 and Kurtis will reprise his role as Guest MC opening the show.
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 '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.
In Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's duet "History of Rap", they sample the opening line to "The Breaks."
On February 27, 2014, Jimmy Fallon and LeBron James performed a parody of the Basketball music video called Wastepaper Basketball.
Snoop Dogg mentions Kurtis Blow and "The Breaks" in his song Ups & Downs.