Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Holy Spirit of Breaks 

From church pews to dancefloors, Kurtis Blow knows how to party

Wednesday, Aug 9 2006
Though his early career is defined by hits like "These Are the Breaks" (1980) and "If I Ruled the World" (1985), the charismatic Kurtis Blow now defers to a higher authority, preaching the Christian gospel. He co-founded the Hip-Hop Church, held at the Greater Hood Memorial AME Church in Harlem. And while Reverend Run (of Run DMC fame) might have been the first rap star to become a preacher, Blow gave Run his start; in his early DJ days, Joseph Simmons was known as "the son of Kurtis Blow." Blow set some other major precedents in the rap world as well. Among them: First rapper to get a major-label deal, produce his own records, and make a million dollars.

With the exception of Afrika Bambaataa, who is similarly open-minded about crossing boundaries, Kurtis Blow is one of the few of hip hop's old-school legends who has found longevity by embracing the younger breakbeat, electro, and drum 'n' bass sounds of which they were some of the principal architects. Blow's been sampled gazillions of times by hip-hop artists large and small (most notably the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy), but he's also one of the godfatherly voices snatched and pasted onto many a dance tune.

A couple choice examples: Coldcut scratched in a snippet of Blow's "Party Time" for "Say Kids, What Time Is It?" — the whimsically sampladelic song cited as vital in spawning Britain's breakbeat scene. Chemical Brothers sampled "These Are the Breaks" in 2000 for "It Began in Africa," and the next year another U.K. duo, A. Skillz and Krafty Kuts, invited the entertainer to record with them, resulting in "Gimme the Breaks," a spiced-up take on the original that revitalized Blow's place in the new school.

Despite his spiritual direction, Kurtis Blow still knows how to party. His appearance at Mighty this week for a night dedicated to the funkiest of breaks will feature a "free special cocktail on Kurtis for the ladies." That's apparently what would happen if — with respect to the Man Above — he ruled the world.

About The Author

Tamara Palmer


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"