With Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in association with Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records, sponsoring the 38th Anniversary of the famed Bronx nightclub “Disco Fever” by presenting an Old School Hip Hop Fever Reunion Throw-Back Concert on Saturday, May 9, at 7:00 p.m., this writer had the occasion to talk to one of the original hip hoppers, Kurtis Blow.
Mr. Blow will be in good company sharing the stage with other hip hop artists such Rob Base, the Sugarhill Gang, Biz Markie, Grandmaster Melle Mel & Scorpio of the Furious Five, SoulSonic Force, Sweet G, Mc Shan, Fearless Four, T-Sky Valley, Spyder-D, Spoonie Gee, Busy Bee Starki, et al. DJ Marley Marl, DJ Hollywood and DJ Brucie B will be there playing the beats with Dr. Bob Lee co-hosting.
“For those who are unaware of the club “Disco Fever,” it was the number one club in NYC from 1979-1985. I used to MC there on Tuesday with Grand Master Flash in the early days of my career. Disco Fever was a small club but the place to be. Some of the early rap music was inspired or created out of that club. I recall driving up to the club in my tour bus after doing a show to hang out,” remarked Kurtis Blow.
Through producer Sal Abbatiello (who inherited the “Disco Fever” club from his father), hip hop came alive. “Music wasn’t the only thing we did through the club. We did a lot of functions and benefits at Disco Fever for the Bronx community. Fund raising events that raised money for the United Negro College Fund, putting up basketball courts and theme parks and opening up a roller skating rink. Disco Fever did a lot of community service,” recalled Kurtis.
Kurtis explained the difference between Rap and Hip Hop. “Hip hop is the umbrella and rap is part of the umbrella. Hip hop is a way of life, a culture. The culture represents the music people listen to, the way they walk and talk. It represents a fashion, religion, dance, art. All of that is part of hip hop culture. Hip hop is the general term of a way of life. It is not only a business but has introduced elements of dance; rap, scratching, DJing, graffiti (art) and beeboying or break dancing, pop locking, and even a hip hop religion,” explained the originator of “If I Ruled the World.”
Hip hop was born in the early 1970s. It was birthed out of the south Bronx and Harlem and spread throughout the five boroughs catching the world by storm. It was around about seven or eight years before the first song came out in 1979, by King Tim III (Personality Jock) with Fatback band. A major hit “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang came out in the summer of 1979 and blow hip hop music up. It was being played everywhere. Run DC crossed it over to Pop, Blondie followed. Into the mid 80s, a whole slew of DJs and rappers have made hip hop the dynasty it is today. “Today, hip hop is with the younger generation. It’s their world. The rap today is very witty, complicated, faster, and it’s a real challenge for an old schooler like me to keep up with the new styles of today. Even outside of U.S., people in other countries are rapping in their own language and have adapted rap to their own culture,” shared Blow.
Kurtis Blow was the first to sign with a major record company, Mercury records. He put out the first rap song that went Gold. “I was a college student who happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was majoring in speech, broadcasting and communications, so I knew how to work the system. I worked the different departments of the label, including publicity, A&R, and the video department. I worked the publicity and promotions department which allowed for major press. In 1980, I traveled internationally as the first rap artist to do so. The label had set up press conferences in each city with radio stations, newspapers, etc. I did the first hip hop national commercial. I was the first hip hop artist to tour across the US and Europe. I felt like I was in a dream world designed by God. It was the best time in my life,” recalled the hip hop artist who has released over 15 albums and as a producer was behind the hits of The Fat Boys, Run DMC, Full Force, Russell Simmons and Wyclef Jean.
The first major song Kurtis did for Mercury Records was “Christmas Rappin.” “I did over 150 songs, but ‘Christmas Rappin’ is my favorite song. That was the idea of JB Moore. Moore and Robert Ford were my producers for my first five albums. JB came up with the idea of “Christmas Rappin” since he felt a Christmas song could be played every Christmas and that was what happened. The song was about Santa Clause visiting a house in Harlem and partying,” chuckled Kurtis, whose biggest seller was “The Breaks.”
“The Breaks” was the first certified Gold rap song in the history of hip hop. It was the second certified Gold “12 inch” in the history of music.
Kurtis has a very busy schedule. He is constantly working and is also a minister. Interested parties can find him via Kurtis Blow Walker onTwitter @Kurtisblow1 or via Instagram where he posts his performance schedule. Readers can also check out my radio show with him via www.blogt