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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.
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 400,000 copies. Its follow-up, "The Breaks", 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. In 1996, fellow rapper Nas debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a cover version of the song.
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 have worked with, Kurt. Former label mates René & Angela had their R&B chart topping debut "Save Your Love (For #1)" gift rapped by Kurt.
Along with Dexter Scott King, Kurt co-ordinated "King Holiday," a song to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. The Mercury/Polygram single, co-produced by Kurt, included the collaborative efforts of Stephanie Mills, Whitney Houston, New Edition, El Debarge, James "JT" Taylor, The Fat Boys, Menudo (Ricky Martin), Teena Marie and Run DMC. The music video was sponsored and paid for by Prince.
Kurt's acting performances and music coordination in several films includes Leon Kennedy’s Cry of the City and the hip hop film Krush Groove. The New York Daily News called his cinematic works, “Noteworthy, a dynamic presence.” 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 gives an informative account of the status of hip hop (1998). The History Of Rap, which he produced and wrote, has been planned for a cinema release.
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 the 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. The display still stands. In 1998, the group Next released "Too Close", in which the music of "Christmas Rappin'" was sampled. ASCAPhonored 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. The tour consisted of shows in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. Kurt said, “It was a tour I will never forget,” and “I did the Bob Hope thing.”
Kurt was a judge for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards.
Deeply committed to Christianity, Kurtis teaches ministry classes at Nyack College. As 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. There are several hip hop churches in the US, and he is involved with many of them. "Don't get it twisted, God has always existed," said Kurtis, "and in terms of these young people out here who love Jesus but do not like to go to church, maybe hip hop can bring them back to the church."