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Kurtis Blow: How a Harlem-born multi-hyphenate became the blueprint for the modern MC

If you tried to build a rap star in a lab, your result would be something close to Kurtis Blow. Today, it’s commonplace to have a rapper that can also hold a note, but add good looks, charisma, legitimate street credibility, and an encyclopedic knowledge of music and business, and you’d have the perfect ambassador for hip-hop culture, which is exactly what Kurtis Blow came to be.

Born Curtis Walker in Harlem, NY, there was no part of the culture that this trailblazer didn’t touch. He started DJing in the early 70s at just 13 years old, and even spent a brief time in one of the notorious Bronx gangs that heavily divided the borough, The Peace Makers, where he befriended fellow pioneer Melle Mel. But his singular focus on becoming an entertainer would guide his steps away from the street life. Evolving from Kool DJ Kurt to Kurtis “Sky” Walker and finally Kurtis Blow (thanks to prodding by his former partner in party promotion-turned-manager Russell Simmons), Curtis was barely 20 years old when he made music history as the first rapper signed to a major label… read more >

 

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