Say It's Your Birthday: Kurtis Blow

Kurtis Blow, born today in Manhattan in 1959, is widely

credited as being one of the first artists to bring rap out of the confines of

its native New York and into the ears and minds of America. In 1980 Blow, a

skinny, angular-faced man of 21, galvanized the growing scratching,

break-dancing, graffiti-art, and rhyming communities with his immensely popular

"The Breaks." Blow, a graduate of New York City's High School of Music and Art,

began working as a disco DJ in 1976, and for a while served as an apprentice to

the first true hip-hop genius, Grandmaster Flash. By the end of the seventies,

seemlessly blending every style he came in contact with, Blow was a rapping and

scratching master. In 1980, Blow released his first single, "Christmas

Rappin'," one of the first rap records to be released by a major label

(Mercury). "Christmas Rappin'" sold over 400,000 copies, and "The Breaks" over

600,000 that same year. However, this early, breathtaking ascent into music

history would prove to be Blow's fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. His

subsequent albums never achieved either the critical or commercial success of

'80's Kurtis Blow; indeed, Blow's appeal, as well as much of his

ability to be musically interesting, vanished seemingly as quickly as it had

come. Still, there is no doubt regarding Blow's impact on the music world:

rappers from Chuck D. to Posdnous emulate Blow's style, and even more

importantly, Blow paved the way for black commercial acceptability in what

would prove to be the most exciting music of the eighties. Other birthdays:

the equally important Marinue Gerritson of Golden Earring (1946), the Cars'

Benjamin Orr (1955), and the sickly-sweet Mrs. Brown, Whitney Houston (1963).