Kurtis Blow: Fully Blown

Not many people in Hip-Hop can claim to have been there from the beginning. From B-boy to DJ, MC to producer, actor to preacher, Kurtis Blow has done it all. One of Hip-Hop’s renaissance men, Blow has been in the game since its infancy and shows no signs of slowing down.

As many of his peers sit back and declare the new school shows no respect for the architects, Blow wants the world to know he has nothing but love. And why shouldn’t he? Nas wouldn’t have had one of the biggest selling singles of 1996 if Kurt hadn’t already ruled the world back in 1985. Back in 1999 Lil’ Bow Wow couldn’t have gotten his little Jordan on if he Blow didn’t give us “Basketball” first. Folks seem to forget that Blow was one of the first Hip-Hop acts to go on tour internationally. You don’t become one of games first millionaires staying local. Blow chats with AllHipHop.com about Hip-Hop history, gangs, The Hip-Hop Church, and how the culture has blessed him in more ways than one.

AllHipHop.com: In Ronin Ro’s Book Have Gun Will Travel, he makes reference to some incidents you had with gang members in the mid ‘80s. What happened?

Kurtis Blow: I had one bad incident in the airport when I was fighting my bodyguard. My bodyguard was one of the Bloods. He was 6’2”, 230 pounds and hard. We fought for about ten minutes in LAX Airport.

AllHipHop.com: What happened? Why did the fight begin?

Kurtis Blow: It was devastating! We were giving our best blows. The cops came and stopped the fight. They were going to arrest him. Because, well…actually it was just an altercation. I really don’t want to go into that. But, you know somebody 155 [pounds] boxing somebody at 230 [pounds] is not really a good fight. I held my own for about ten minutes straight. It was some quick jabs, puffing up eyes, but I want a rematch. [laughs] Not!

AllHipHop.com: Was he fired after that?

Kurtis Blow: Well, no. Actually, I had a lot of his weapons. [laughs] So he was really nice to me after that…until he could get all his weapons back. That was something. Slowly after that, I realized that I had problems with these cats.

AllHipHop.com: Are you talking about the Bloods?

Kurtis Blow: Gang members, period. I’ve had problems with gang members. A lot of times, you have to hold your tongue or else it’s on. You’re fighting. Then after the fight, you gotta get your guns. Then it’s whoever sees who first you gonna kill each other. They are playing for real, playing for keeps. In order for me to befriend these cats, I have to live like that. I realized that it’s a serious, serious life. We should not have to live like that. If you make mistakes and say something wrong to someone, you take them off. It’s life or death.

AllHipHop.com: What did you notice was different about New York gangs versus California gangs?

Kurtis Blow: More weapons in L.A. Everybody has a gun, [if not] two or three guns. On New Years in L.A., people shoot off the guns at 12 o’clock. If you are in the hood on New Years, it really sounds like a war zone. I had to do a gig at Skateland, a known Blood hangout. I mean they always gave me respect. I always had love from all the Bloods and all the Crips. They know I am a triple OG. So out of 18 years of being in L.A., I had maybe two altercations where things went to blows. I never had to shoot off a gun. It was always love. Living like that is not very smart in terms of your chances of being in an altercation. Yes, I was blessed and lucky not to have been in a situation in all of those years where I had to kill someone or get shot at. As a matter of fact, I stopped a lot of that stuff. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time is another factor. That’s what’s so good about the DVD [Slippin—Ten Years with The Bloods] It presents that whole situation and shows guys who were actually living it either got out of it, don’t like it, or were killed. It shows the reality of what I am really talking about.

AllHipHop.com: Your song “8 Million Stories”, that was about ‘80s New York. If you remade it today what are some of the different things you would say lyrically?

Kurtis Blow: It would probably be faster. The language would change. We don’t say “fresh” or even “dope.” Raps are faster. The flows are faster. It’s kind of cool and challenging for the old school to keep up with it.

AllHipHop.com: You ever think of recording again?

Kurtis Blow: I do a lot of Gospel recording now. I just did Fox News, and they tried to have me on as someone who was against rap today. I was looking at [the host] like he was crazy. I love everybody. My whole thing is because I do what I do, over 150 songs, and never used profanity, doesn’t mean I disagree with what they are doing now. Busta Rhymes’ new album is out of here. It’s off the chain to me. Jay-Z, Snoop, Eminem; Hip-Hop today is incredible and I love it. I don’t want anyone to get that wrong about me. I am not a hater on the sidelines. I’m not frustrated like the old schoolers. It’s gonna take love for us to come together. Because I’m different doesn’t mean that I don’t love, appreciate and support what’s going down right now.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of people don’t know that Reverend Run used to be your protégé and early on was known as “The Son of Kurtis Blow.” How did you hook up with him?

Kurtis Blow: Russell Simmons and I met in college in 1977. He had a younger brother named Run. When I was 18, he was 13; about five years younger than us. He became my protégé. What was really good l about him was a 13 year old rappin’ kid. He really got good by going around his neighborhood in Hollis, Roosevelt, Jamaica and all around Queens at the park jams during the summer. And between 13 and 15, he really got good. So when I got the record deal I made him my DJ because by then he had become a DJ. His dad got him some turntables and he used to practice all the time. He used to practice up in his attic. I used to give him pointers and we would be rockin’.

He would come out and DJ for me, and I would DJ for him. We just developed this little show that was the most incredible. We played together for about six months. Then I did “The Breaks”. I was going out on tour in 1980, opening up for the Commodores. It was an 80 city tour. I was the first rapper to tour. But Joey [Run] broke his arm and couldn’t tour with me. He wanted to go out anyway, but his dad said no. He had to stay home. But he was DJing with one arm! It broke his heart. I was on tour for the next six months or so. He stayed home and formed his own group called Run-DMC.

AllHipHop.com: So by the time you came back…

Kurtis Blow: They had a record, a group and they put out “Sucker MC’s” and “It’s Like That”. That’s how Run-DMC was formed. If Joey didn’t break his arm, there would be no Run-DMC. He would still be my DJ. That’s my ace. That was my homey.

AllHipHop.com: So how did Kurtis Blow get down with the Hip-Hop Church?

Kurtis Blow: Basically it was a vision from God to do these Hip-Hop churches. It rolled, and the kids really embraced it. The people really supported it and the kids really come out and dance. It’s a basic service to bring the kids to church. It’s a huge ministry. Our whole thing is youth empowerment. The kids are the future of the church. They run the church. It’s an incredible way to present the gospel and God to a lot of the kids out there. It’s non-denominational and everyone is welcome. There are three of them. The first one was in New York City [at] Harlem at the Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church that’s on 146th between 7th & Lenox [Avenues] and it’s every Thursday from 6:30 till 9 [PM]. The second one is in Philly, part of the Metro Christ Foundation. And one in L.A., at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 93 Crenshaw Boulevard, and it’s held every first Friday.

AllHipHop.com: For someone that didn’t know, what’s different about the Hip-Hop Church? How do you come up with the music that played in the church?

Kurtis Blow: The dress code. You can wear whatever you want: your jeans, your sneakers. We’re pretty much non traditional in that manner. We feel that God is not worried about the clothes you have on—it’s about what’s in your heart. When we grew up we were always separate. Going to Sunday school and separated from out parents. In the Hip-Hop Church, parents sit with the kids, fellowship, and have a good time with the kids. No dropping off. Families worship together in unity. My role varies. I can go from the DJ, to the MC. I preach. [I can be a] sound man. It varies from church to church, and service to service.

AllHipHop.com: How did you like Nas’s remake of “If I Ruled the World’?

Kurtis Blow: Big hit. I loved that song. I’m a big fan of Lauryn Hill. Lauryn was a part of the Fugees and I produced Wyclef back in the days when he first came to this country. He was in a group called The Rap Translators. He used to rap in different languages and I thought he was awesome. Rappin’ in French and Creole. I was trying to get them a deal. Two years later, the demos we worked on got them the deal as the Fugees. Lauryn’s voice is just the most incredible thing and I felt the same way when I heard it on the Nas song. It was raw. I heard the beat and lyrics—all I could say was wow. I listened to it in my car over and over for an hour straight. So I gave them the clearance, we took care of business, Nas was really fair, and I appreciate him and what he does for Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: R&B group next sampled Christmas Rappin on there song “Too Close”.

Kurtis Blow: Big shout out to Next. Really a shout to the whole year of 1999. Bow Wow did “Basketball”. The younger cats today have shown a lot of love to me and I just want to show that support back to them. I’m not one of these frustrated cats out here. I wanna stress that and make it clear. Please put that in there. I want them to know that this old school cat ain’t frustrated.

AllHipHop.com: If you never made it in Hip-Hop, what do you think you would be doing now?

Kurtis Blow: I’d probably be a scientist, or a graphic artist. Science was my thing. I wanted to make mechanical hearts so people could live forever. I got side tracked.

AllHipHop.com: What’s the biggest compliment you ever got on your work?

Kurtis Blow: From Bob Marley. I was at Madison Square Garden. We played New York three nights in a row. I’m standing in the corridor with Bernadette Stanis from Good Times on my left arm and Stacy Dash from Labelle on my right. I’m 19, playing the Garden. There was a big crowd of people moving slow towards us. The crowd got closer, got in front of us, and opened up. Here comes Bob Marley out of the center. He walks straight up to me. My God. He puts his hand up to me, I shake it. In his accent he says, “Kurtis, I love your stuff.” That was it. The crowd closed up and he was gone. I was like, “Oh man! Bob Marley!” That was his last concert. He died like a month later. That was a real honor. See why I’m good? I love everyone. No need for frustration. It’s all a blessing what we have done with Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: One last question. What was up with that curl you had? How fly did you think you were?

Kurtis Blow: [laughing] The curls got the girls.

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