Today, August 9, is the birthday of one of the most influential hip-hop figures walking this earth: Kurtis Blow.

The 59-year-old began in the infant stages of hip-hop, starting out as a breakdancer, block party/club DJ and a program director of CCNY’s radio station. He was Kool Kurt until around 1977, when he picked up a mic, changed his name to Kurtis Blow and started rapping.

The hip-hop connoisseur paved the way for his successors like Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. as he broke barriers and made history. Blow was the first rapper to be signed to a major record label (Mercury) and the first to release an album on one (his debut self-titled LP from 1980). The first single “Christmas Rappin” was also released with Mercury and went on to sell half a million. Blow was the first rapper to perform on a national tour and travel and perform overseas. He was also the first to have a rap single (“The Breaks”) certified gold. He even made it possible for rappers today to be as marketable as they are, as he was the first rapper to sign an endorsement deal. The 1985 single “If I Ruled the World” still remains influential as artists like Nas, Lauryn Hill and MF Doom sample the hip-hop classic.

Later in Blow’s career, he became a producer and helped groups like Fat Boys get a record label as well as producing most of their records. He then went on to work with Rhino Records on the three-volume series Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Rap producing, compiling, and writing liner notes.

Today, he continues to inspire the people of the community as the founder of The Hip Hop Church. He became an ordained minister in 2009. In 2018 he was appointed a member of New York City's Nightlife Advisory Board. 

Happy Birthday Kurtis Blow! - Jacqueline Roberts-Kpan

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