KURTIS BLOW INTERVIEW
JayQuan : Who was the first person that you ever saw Emcee ; and what was the year ?
Kurtis Blow : This cat named JT Hollywood ( not the famous Dj Hollywood ) in 1972 . He was a Dj who used to say his little lines over the music .....JJ The Disco King & Kc The Prince Of Soul were some other early guys . I saw Herc for the first time in 1974 and Dj Hollywood in 76 . When I was growing up my mom would take me shopping ; and we would pass by the record stores ; they always had a speaker outside playing the latest jams . I always stood there and read the charts......thats the first thing that I could read . Sly & The Family Stone , Isley Bros , Jackson 5 and Motown - stuff like that was always topping the charts . James Brown was the best though . I was a breakdancer back in the days and James was the best music to dance to . Sex Machine , Soul Power Live , Licking Stick , Hot Pants , Pop Corn , Say it Loud and Give it up ot turn it loose . James was not only a great entertainer , but he was like a musical Martin Luther King - he coined the phrase Black is beautiful . When I was a Breaker my crew was called the Sons Of Harlem .
JQ : You were a Dj also ?
KB : Yeah when I was 7 or 8 my moms would have little parties , and I would play the music . I went around with a sheet of paper getting peoples requests . When I was 13 I had a fake Id that said that I was 19 . I was getting in all the clubs. Pete Dj Jones was the first person that I saw with 2 turntables . This was 1972 . On my 13th birthday me & my best friend Tony Rome (who later became LL Cool Js road manager , and worked at Def Jam ) got together to Dj my party . We hooked up 2 component sets , and had continous music .
JQ : When did you know that you wanted to be an Emcee ?
KB : Well I had a vision I call it , like a prophesy when I was 13 . I used to listen to station WWRL with Hank Span ; and I use to mimmick Gary Bird...a Dj . He is the one that Jimmy Spicer and everybody was trying to sound like . He would talk over different records , and he even put out little comedy spoof records . Well I said at 13 that I was gonna be a Dj at WWRL and be just like Gary Bird and get into radio . In 1974 I graduated from junior high and in 75 Ienrolled in the High School of music and art . That was the year that Larry Green introduced me to Kool Herc . Well I was always a hustler...I ran numbers ; I wasnt a stick up kid , but I was a fence for them . I used to sell weed ; and was kicked out of Music and Art for that . Actually the dean said that I had poor attendence , thats all that he could stick me with because he could not prove that I was selling weed . I was like Al Capone & he was like Elliot Ness ; getting me on a technicality . I was then sent to Grandites High , where I got caught selling angel dust . I was always an A student so instead of getting kicked out , the dean said that I wasnt being challenged enough , that I was getting bored - so I had to take this test to see if i qualified to get skipped to college . I passed and was sent to City College . Thats where I hooked up with this short light skinned cat that I had seen years before when I used to hit this club called Nell Glenns with my fake Id . This guy could do the Brookyln Hustle real good...there was the regular Hustle but the Brooklyn Hustle was a lot more complicated . This guy was doin it real good . Any way this guys name was Russell Simmons . We started promoting parties as " Force College Disco ".
At first Dj Eddie Cheeba didnt want me to be down....Russell wanted me to be the son of Eddie Cheeba . It took Cheeba some convincing . I was called Kool Dj Kurt Walker...but they wanted tocall me Kurtis Blow . I didnt like it because everyone would think it was about drugs , but we looked it up in the dictionary and saw that it also meant a force of power . It had a few definitions so I stayed with it . We were trying to be big like M Morton Hall - he promoted Pete Dj Jones .... ....Winston Sanders was also a big downtown promoter...he ended up do big things at the Garden in the late 60s and in the 70s . People like Kool & The Gang , Earth , Wind & Fire and Barry White. Jerry Roebuck was also big . My first jam was at Hotel Diplomat opening for Hollywood . Before that I approached him one night and asked why he never gave me any props . After I walked away he shouted out on the mic...." Kurtis Blow & Force College Dicso in the house " ....thats was it...I got shouted out by Hollywood , I was official !!
JQ : What was your affiliation with the Furious 5 ?
KB : I first heard about Flash in 1977 . We met in early 78 at Club 371. Flash and his Emcees were always breaking up . Once Flash didnt have any Emcees . It was just me & Flash .Then Mel came back at one point and it was just us....there is a tape of that one circulating around.At one point they all came back and Kool Kyle the Starchild was down with us. We were Grandmaster Flash & the Serious 7 ! Being down with them was one of the high points of my life . I remember when I first got down with them they had just battled DJ Rock & the Come Off Crew. Furious lost and they were mad....plotting how they were gonna get them next time. One night I was performing at hotel diplomat and I was on fire that night . Jb Moore & Robert Ford from Billboard were in the crowd and thats how I got my deal. I invited Flash to be my Dj ; but he said that he had to stick with Furious , and I understood .
JQ : Lets talk about KB the producer...how did you get into producing ?
Flash , Sal Albetiello & Kurtis Blow
KB : I used to hang out with Sal Albetiello , owner of the Disco Fever . Me , Sal & Mr Magic were called the Juice Crew....Sal got us all these special diamond rings.....anyway Run Dmc wanted me to produce " Its Like That " . I told them that I was too busy , Sugarhill Gang was knocking me off the charts , I just made a wack album ( Tough only did like 300,000 ) , I was trying to get myself back on top. I told them to wait ...they did it without me , but they used my band Orange Krush . I was kinda mad so I said thats what I will do , start producing . I did mix " Its Like That " . Sal had started Fever Records and I produced " Games People Play " by Sweet G - it was a big hit . I also did " Games Females Play " with Giggolette and " Live at the Fever " with Luv Bug Starski . Then I did Fearless 4 and Jeckyll & Hyde .
JQ : How about the Fat Boys.....did their whole thing come about like the Krush Groove movie?
KB : Yeah thats pretty accurate , they won the Tin Pan Apple contest , and they needed someone to produce the records , and Sal got me to do it . The first single had our signature sound...the song" Fat Boys " it had the Davy Dmx bassline and the girls singing.....just like all the Kurtis Blow records . And on " Jail House Rap " , you will notice the Piano sounds like my stuff too .
JQ : How was it for a producer back then...was it a flat fee that the label payed ?
KB : Yeah like $10,000 for a song and 5 points (royalties) . Then it was $30,000 for a whole lp - not bad money back then .
JQ : Run DMC redid "Hard Times" from your first lp right ?
KB : Yes Billy Bill ( Kool Kyles partner ) wrote that with me .
JQ : You were the first Emcee on Soul Train ?
KB : Yes , I was 19 years old....I didnt even lipsync....I had an instrumental on the B side of " The Breaks " and I went live . Don Cornelous dissed rap.....when he introduced me he said " I don't know what all the fuss is about with this rap stuff , but I guess its just my job to introduce it.....Kurtis Blow.....I was like why did he do that on national TV ! ? !
JQ : I am in VA and Go Go has always been big here and in Maryland and Dc...what made you do " Partytime" with EU and later " Im Chillin " with Trouble Funk ?
KB : I was doin a jam at the Capital Center when the " Breaks " was hot . EU came out and the crowd went crazy...they were doin call and response stuff.....then Trouble Funk came with the same.." We gonna drop the bomb on the Northwest crew Drop the bomb , Drop the bomb !!! " I was like what the hell is this ? Then Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers came out...I knew them from " Bustin Loose ".....they rocked too....so I just knew I was gonna outdo these little local groups. Man I came with my " throw your hands in the air " nobody moved !!!! Trouble Funk and them kicked my ass !!!.....So I had to be a part of what they were doing...I just thought it would have caught on more .
JQ : How were you treated by your labelmates , being on Polygram/Mercury..when they had Barkays , Rene & Angela and all these people ?
KB : It was mixed...nobody really understood Hip Hop . But I was the labels last priority . I met a lot of people though everybody...Bob Marley , Commodores , Mick Jagger and the Stones Michael Jackson.....everyone .
JQ : What capacity did you meet Mike in...a club/party , studio or what...and was he cool ?
KB : He was real cool , I used to date Latoya for awhile , I was a close freind of the family . I have been in the studio with Jermaine...they were cool people .
JQ : How did the Sprite commercial come about ?
KB : The sister in their marketing department really pushed for me. People were saying Kurtis Blow is dead let Run DMC do it , but she wanted Kurtis Blow...I was real grateful to her for that.
JQ : Lastly do you feel that these R & B people really love Hip Hop all of a sudden , or do you think that they just use it to advance their careers ?
KB : I dont think they all love it ; some probably do - its always been like that...I remember touring with the Commodores....by the end of the tour they were using " throw your hands in the air ". Which reminds me...I did radio in LA a few years back and Lionel Ritchie was on the radio - they asked him what he thought of Hip Hop...he said " most of these Hip Hoppers rap because they cant sing " . I was mad...I wanted to call in to talk to him....like hey remember you took me all around the world back in 1980.....but after that comment , I wanted to go kick his ass . But we cant worry with that , because we did it...Hip Hop is thee dominant youth culture in the world right now . We should really hold our heads up high.
JQ : What are you working on right now ?
KB : My film documentary " The History Of Hip Hop "...im back and forth between the states and Germany editing im half done.
JQ : Keep us posted on that......PEACE.
©2005 JayQuan Dot Com As told to JayQuan on 3/7/02 No part may be copied without authors permission