Top 10 Kurtis Blow Songs

Kurtis Blow Songs

Feature Photo: Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

Our top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list digs deep into the music of a Harlem-born pioneering rapper/hip hop star. Born in 1959, Kurtis Blow started his professional music career in 1979 growing into one of the most revered hip-hop figures to date. While musical stars like Grandmaster Flash, DK Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaataa helped establish the hip-hop culture, Kurtis Blow was the first commercially successful rap artist.

Kurtis Blow’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough

Kurtis Blow revealed that he fell in love with hip hop in the early ‘70s starting out as a DJ at a friend’s party. Passion for music and his charisma saw Kurtis rise steadily into the hip-hop/rap scene, changing its trajectory forever. At twenty years of age, Kurtis Blow became the first rap artist to sign a recording contract with a major record label (in this case, Mercury Records). Under Mercury Records, Kurtis released his first major label rap track, “Christmas Rappin’,” in 1979.

“Christmas Rappin’” catapulted Kurtis Blow to commercial success, selling over four hundred thousand copies. The song also rose to the Billboard R&B and UK Singles charts. Kurtis Blow went on to break the commercial success barriers of the hip hop/rap genre by becoming the first artist to have a Gold-certified rap track with his follow-up hit “The Breaks.” “The Breaks” charted on the Billboard R&B chart, breaking into the Billboard Hot 100 (peaked at number eighty-seven).

Kurtis Blow went on to become the first hip-hop/rap star to feature on the American musical variety show, Soul Train. Blow also went on to become the first solo rapper to strike an endorsement deal with Sprite, a move that proved rap’s impact in society. While Kurtis Blow was the trailblazing commercially successful rapper, his rise to fame was partly influenced by the mainstream success of The Sugarhill Gang.

Thanks to The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight,” major labels like Mercury Records saw the potential of rap music, signing Kurtis Blow who was at the time one of the most promising rap artists. Issued through a then-minor label Sugar Hill Records, “Rapper’s Delight” was the first hip hop/rap hit to reach the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the song’s impact wasn’t perfectly documented following a lack of submission to the RIAA. Kurtis Blow’s enduring success was supported by his interminable enthralling club performances, unlike The Sugarhill Gang who were essentially a studio-only trio.

Kurtis Blow’s Album Releases over the Years

After his success in 1979 with his first major label hit “Christmas Rappin’,” Kurtis Blow returned with his ground-breaking debut eponymous album in September 1980. Kurtis Blow is home to some of the best Kurtis Blow songs including his signature single “The Breaks,” “Hard Times,” and “Throughout Your Years.” The album also features Kurtis Blow’s cover of the 1973 Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit “Takin’ Care of Business.” Kurtis Blow was a success, rising to number ten on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album also peaked at number seventy-one on the Billboard 200.

Kurtis Blow returned with his sophomore studio album, Deuce, in 1981. Deuce was issued in 1981 through Mercury Records. Other rappers who went on to sign with Mercury Records include Chuck D, DJ Chuck Chillout, ED O.G., Diamond D, Ill Al Skratch, Emcee N.I.C.E., Jeezy, and Kanye West. “Take It to the Bridge,” “Deuce,” and “Do the Do” are some of the most popular Kurtis Blow songs from the album. Deuce managed to rise to number thirty-five on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album also peaked at number one hundred and thirty-seven on the Billboard 200.

Tough, issued in 1982, marked the rapper’s third studio album. This rap album featured notable hits including “Daydreamin’,” “Tough,” and “Juice.” The album also managed to enter the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, peaking at number thirty-eight. Tough peaked at number one hundred and sixty-seven on the Billboard 200.

Kurtis Blow issued his fourth album, The Best Rapper on the Scene in 1983. The album featured several hits from the rapper’s third studio album, Tough, and his 1983 EP, Party Time? Some of the best Kurtis Blow songs from the album include “Party Time?” and “Got to Dance.” Unfortunately, The Best Rapper on the Scene marked Kurtis Blow’s first album to not make it to the charts.

However, this didn’t seem to slow Kurtis Blow down, having him issue the album Ego Trip the following year. Ego Trip saw Kurtis Blow trace his way back to commercial success, with the album peaking at number eighteen on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album also made it to number eighty-three on the Billboard 200. Some of the musical gems from this old-school hip-hop album include “Basketball,” “Ego Trip,” and “8 Million Stories.”

In 1985, Kurtis Blow issued his sixth studio album, AmericaAmerica was a success both in the mainstream and commercially. “If I Ruled the World” and “America” are some of the best Kurtis Blow songs from the album. The album went on to chart at number eighteen on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. America also peaked at number one hundred and fifty-three on the Billboard 200.

Kingdom Blow, issued in 1986, marked Kurtis Blow’s seventh studio album. The album was a success, rising to number sixteen on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Kingdom Blow also managed to peak at number one hundred and ninety-six on the Billboard 200. “I’m Chillin’” and “The Bronx” are the most popular Kurtis Blow songs from the album.

In 1988, Kurtis Blow released his eighth studio album, Back by Popular Demand. The album wasn’t as influential as the rapper’s former albums. However, it managed to feature several musical gems including “Blue Iguana,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” and “Express Yourself.” Back by Popular Demand also managed to peak at number eighty-four on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The singer has made other notable releases with The Trinity as a Gospel minister.

Kurtis Blow’s Other Musical Pursuits

Kurtis Blow not only sought his fame alone but also helped other rap artists elevate their careers. The rapper is credited for helping Run-DMC and The Fat Boys release genre definitive hits. Blow has also produced music for some of the best rappers of the twentieth century including Wyclef Jean, a former member of Fugees, Lovebug Starski, and Full Force. The rapper was also a member of The Krush Groove All Stars and the 1985 protest group Artists United Against Apartheid.

The twenty-first century brought in new faces in the hip hop scene and Kurtis Blow was already past his prime years. However, Kurtis was slow to let go of the hip-hop culture. The rapper went on to cofound a nondenominational Hip Hop Church in his birthplace Harlem. Through the church, Kurtis has taken his impact on the hip-hop scene to a whole new level, having him stand in as a worship leader, rapper, and DJ in the church. Now a devout Christian, the rapper has distanced himself from the use of profanity in his church work.

Kurtis Blow’s Legacy

Kurtis Blow takes home the honor of the being first commercially successful rap artist. Together with The Sugarhill Gang, DJ Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flash, and the Furious Five, Kurtis helped revolutionize the hip-hop genre. Kurtis Blow’s prodigious club performances also played a huge role in introducing mainstream audiences to the underground hip-hop scene. Here we present the ten best Kurtis Blow songs of all time.

# 10 – America

Ushering us to the top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list is the phenomenal rap hit “America.” The song serves as the album title track of Kurtis Blow’s sixth studio album. “America” features consistent yet attractive rap beats with the rapper delivering a touching commentary on the social status of the Americans. This is a little ironic owing to the song’s hook which expresses sentimental patriotism.

The song samples the inaugural speech of the thirty-fifth President of the United States, J.F. Kennedy. Through “America,” Kurtis Blow brings out the nation’s incongruities from its democratic epitomes including discrimination and racism. In 2018, Childish Gambino released the hip hop hit “This Is America,” a song whose theme is similar to “America” by Kurtis Blow. “America” went on to peak at number seventy-four on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

# 9 – 8 Million Stories ft. Run-DMC

“8 Million Stories” is a remarkable rap song by Kurtis Blow featuring the American hip hop group Run-DMC. The song is among the best Kurtis Blow songs from the rapper’s album, Ego Trip. “8 Million Stories” finds Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C. giving some narratives about what life for an ordinary dweller of the city of New York in the ‘80s was like.

“8 Million Stories” was a successful release, peaking at number forty-five on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1973 hit “Living for the City.” “8 Million Stories” would later be sampled in the 1985 hit “That’s a Lie” by LL Cool J featuring Russell Simmons.

# 8 – Throughout Your Years

Coming in at number eight in our top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list is the grooving hit “Throughout Your Years.” The song is featured on the rapper’s debut eponymous album. “Throughout Your Years” strikes a balance between Kurtis Blow’s hip hop sound and disco/funk influences. The funk influences in “Throughout Your Years” make the song one of the most danceable hits by Kurtis Blow.

“Throughout Your Years” went on to peak at number thirty-one on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Thanks to its groovy/funk feel that the song made it to the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, where it peaked at number seventy-five.

# 7 – I’m Chillin’

Kurtis Blow’s commercial success was at its peak during his initial years, dwindling as the late-‘80s approached. However, songs like “I’m Chillin’” rekindled his way back to the mainstream and commercial success. “I’m Chillin’” is the best Kurtis Blow song from the rapper’s seventh album, Kingdom Blow.

The song marked the rapper’s last hit to make it to the charts, peaking at number twenty on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. “I’m Chillin’” also managed mainstream success in Europe, peaking at number sixty-four on the UK Singles Chart. The song has been sampled in “Non M’Annoio” by Jovannoti, “Oo Licky” by Herbert, and “House of Brick” by Mayte.

# 6 – Tough

Number six on our top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list is the wonderful rap hit “Tough.” The song serves as the album title track to Kurtis Blow’s third studio album. As its title reads, “Tough” tells of how life is not a walk in the park, calling upon everyone to the principle of hard work as the only key to success. However, Kurtis Blow reminds his audience through this hit of the need to accept things they can barely change/control.

“Tough” also features themes of social inequalities, racial discrimination, and pop culture, paying homage to stars like Stevie Wonder. The song managed to rise to position thirty-seven on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. “Tough” has been sampled in multiple songs including “Shut Up” by Black Eyed Peas, “Tennessee” by Arrested Development, “The Scoop” by Beastie Boys, and “Ankle Blues” by Da Lench Mob.

# 5 – Party Time?

Party Time? released in 1983, is an EP by Kurtis Blow featuring five new tracks. The songs were later featured on Kurtis Blow’s fourth studio album, The Best Rapper on the Scene. Amongst the five tracks was the EP’s title track which together with “Got to Dance,” stood out thanks to their party theme. This was a little different from the social/ political themes seen with the rest of the songs from the EP.

“Party Time?” was a success, peaking at number thirty-five on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Thanks to the song’s funk influence, it made it to the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, peaking at number thirty-nine. “Party Time?” was appreciated in the UK where it peaked at number sixty-seven on the UK Singles Chart. The song was later sampled in multiple songs including “Hey Ladies” by Beastie Boys, Show Me What You Got” by Limp Bizkit, “God O.D.” by Meat Beat Manifesto, and “Latitude” by Five Deez.

#4- Christmas Rappin’

After becoming the first rapper to sign a recording contract with a major record label, Kurtis Blow went on to record the hit “Christmas Rappin’.” Kurtis Blow had signed a two-single deal with Mercury Records. “Christmas Rappin’” kick-started Kurtis Blow’s commercial success, selling over four hundred thousand copies. The song paved way for “The Breaks,” Kurtis Blow’s second single, with the success of both songs gifting the rapper an album deal with Mercury Records.

“Christmas Rappin’” alludes to Santa joining a house party and having fun. The song’s lyrics are credited to Kurtis Blow and J.B. Moore. “Christmas Rappin’” is among the most successful Christmas rap songs. Next, an American R&B trio, sampled the song in the double-platinum hit “Too Close.” Other notable hits that sampled “Christmas Rappin’” include “Hold It Now, Hit It” by Beastie Boys and “Dare” by Gorillaz featuring Shaun Ryder. “Christmas Rappin” peaked at number fifty-two on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song was also Kurtis Blow’s first hit to make it to the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number thirty.

# 3 – Basketball

The third track on our top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list is the incredible hit “Basketball.” “Basketball” is among the most famous hits that pay tribute to the basketball game. The song is a perfect tribute to the NBA, citing legends like Rick Barry, Bill Russell, Moses Malone, and Larry Bird. This high-spirited song has its hook performed by Alyson Williams best known for her hits “Sleep Talk,” “I Need Your Lovin’,” and “Just Call My Name.”

“Basketball” is Kurtis Blow’s second hit to make it to the Billboard Hot 100, after his breakthrough hit “The Breaks.” The song peaked at number seventy-one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s video features appearances by Whodini and The Fat Boys. Bow Wow released a new version of this song in 2002 featuring Jermaine Dupri, Fundisha, and Fabolous.

# 2 – If I Ruled the World

“If I Ruled the World” is one of the most sought-after hits by Kurtis Blow from his album, America. The song finds Kurtis Blow singing from the standpoint of a benevolent tyrant who rules with composure and sobriety. While he lives a lavish and opulent life, the dictator is empathetic, having him come to the aid of the poor. Kurtis Blow cited “If I Ruled the World” as the first rap song to sample a loop.

“If I Ruled the World” was a success, rising to number sixteen on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song also made it to the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number twenty-four. “If I Ruled the World” was sampled in “Ready or Not” by Fugees, “24K of Gold” by Big Sean featuring J. Cole, and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill.

#1- The Breaks

Number one on our top 10 Kurtis Blow songs list is the groundbreaking hit “The Breaks.” The song is the second single Kurtis Blow released through Mercury Records. “The Breaks” would later feature on the rapper’s debut eponymous album. “The Breaks” went on to become the landmark of the hip-hop culture in the ‘80s after it became the first hip-hop/rap Gold-certified hit. The song was the second 12-inch single ever to be Gold-certified after “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.

Kurtis Blow cited that “The Breaks” was created as a tribute to break-dancers in Harlem and South Bronx. “The Breaks” leapfrogged the impact of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang, an influential hip hop/rap hit that was never submitted to the RIAA for certification. The song was later covered by Rob Gee, MC Platinum, and Epic Party Band. “The Breaks” was Kurtis Blow’s first song to make it to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number eighty-seven. The song also managed to chart on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number forty-seven.

Top 10 Kurtis Blow Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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