Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kurtis Blow: Still catching breaks, even on Sunday

Kurtis Blow, the godfather of rap, will perform and speak Sunday in Tampa.

Getty Images

Kurtis Blow, the godfather of rap, will perform and speak Sunday in Tampa.

For those of you too young to remember Kurtis Blow, here's a quick summary: godfather of rap.

Kurtis "Blow" Walker, best known for late- '70s and '80s hits The Breaks, Basketball and If I Ruled the World (which Nas sampled a decade later), was one of hip-hop's pioneers. He was the first rapper signed to a major label, the first with a certified gold single, the first to tour internationally and the first to score an endorsement deal. Blow set the stage for acts like Run-DMC and Grandmaster Flash and, while the music he describes as "progressive, funky disco" may seem unsophisticated by today's standards, his career paved the way for today's rap superstars.

"I can recall being in the projects, and the older guys playing the music. Their biggest artist that they loved was Kurtis Blow at the time," rapper Flo Rida told tbt* this week. "They used to be mimicking his rhymes, playing inside the wash house — the Laundromat — banging on the laundry machines, singing his records."

All these decades later, Blow, who turns 50 on Aug. 9, is still making records — but with a higher calling. A born-again Christian and licensed nondenominational pastor, Minister Kurtis, as he's now called, oversees hip-hop-themed churches in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and his native Harlem. He also fronts the holy hip-hop group Kurtis Blow and the Trinity. They criss-cross the country in a 12-passenger van, performing and speaking at churches. Sunday they'll be at Tampa's Crossover Church.

Earlier this week, Blow spoke with tbt* by phone from a tour stop in Selma, Ala.

What's the difference between touring now and 25 years ago?

The numbers are different. I used to have between 10,000 and 20,000 back 25 years ago. Now the numbers are smaller. Anywhere between 100 and 1,000 now. ... But I'll tell you, there's more meaning in what I'm doing right now.

What do you think of the direction rap has taken?

I actually think that the lyrical flows are faster and wittier and more complicated. It's a challenge for an old-schooler to keep up.

But you shouldn't have to keep up. You're the originator. Do you feel pressure to keep up with these kids?

Not a pressure, no. It's like a project — a school project.

So who are your fans? Are they people who grew up with your music, or are they a new generation of fans?

Both. ... A lot of smart kids out there do their research, and they find out about me, and they come out to my shows. Like in Europe, it's mixed 50-50 young people and older people, over 40. But predominantly, you know — c'mon, it's an over-30 crowd.

You have a birthday coming up.

Yeah, the big 5-0!

How will you celebrate?

They're giving me a party in New York at one of the biggest clubs in New York. It's called the Shadow. The owner (is) giving me a big party. They're going to put it all on the radio and everything. Actually, it's going to be my last party.


Because I'm going to get ordained the next week. I'm just going to stop partying, going out to clubs and stuff like that.

You've had so many firsts. Why do you think you were the first? Do you think it was God who chose you as the first, or do you think it was hard work?

No, it was definitely God.

Because somebody had to be the first.

Somebody had to be the first, and I was blessed. That's a beautiful thing.

Have you figured out why God wanted it to be you?

No. When I meet him, I'm going to ask him, though. (laughs)


Kurtis Blow

The legend comes to Crossover Church on Sunday. At the 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. services, he'll share his story and perform some of his new music. At 7 p.m. he'll do a longer set with new music and old hits. His son DJ Mark Anthony will man the turntables. Free and open to all ages. The first 700 people will get a free Kurtis Blow CD. 7809 N Orleans Ave., Tampa, (813) 935-8887;

Kurtis Blow: Still catching breaks, even on Sunday 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'There's nothing left': $253,000 worth of missing pianos stirs outrage


    Lisa Williams was going through a messy divorce. Money was tight. She had to move to a smaller house, but there was no room for the beloved Schimmel baby grand piano she bought for her daughter two decades ago.

    Lisa Williams of Pinellas Park is one of several people who had their pianos stolen, and then lost the money they were supposed to get for them. Largo police are saying they were ripped off through a scheme run by the owner of a defunct piano shop in Clearwater.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  2. MacDill tanker crews keep fighter planes in the air during the battle against ISIS


    AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR — Settled into the cockpit, headed for the combat zone of Iraq, the three-man crew from MacDill Air Force Base can't wait to get in the air.

    But wait they must.

     Air Force Capt. Doug Karl (L) and Maj. Ryan Jahnke check landing coordinates on their tablets as they fly toward Royal Air Force Mildenhall from MacDill Air Force Base. [HOWARD ALTMAN  |  Times
  3. Lifestyle changes to stave off Alzheimer's? Hints, no proof


    WASHINGTON — There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine key risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases around the world.

    In this Oct. 7, 2003, file photo, a section of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease is on display at the Museum of Neuroanatomy at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y. There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases. [AP Photo/David Duprey, File]
  4. City Attorney: State won't pursue criminal charges in St. Pete's sewage crisis


    The St. Petersburg City Council is expected to approve a consent order later today that requires the city to spend $326 million on improving its sewer system.

    St. Petersburg's sewage crisis appears to be winding down
  5. Review: 'A Really Big Lunch' a fitting last supper from Jim Harrison


    As much as I loved Jim Harrison's fiction and poetry, I've always had a special affection for his food writing. Boisterous and erudite and opinionated and wildly sensual, it always seemed his most personal writing, slipping the veil of fiction and the rigor of poems, and rippling with humor.