1980, Music

Kurtis Blow (1980)

My understanding is that this is like the second hip hop LP ever. If that’s true, it’s certainly one of the most important albums of its era. It’s also worth noting that it is way better than the Sugar Hill Gang’s debut LP, just by the simple fact that Kurtis Blow is the actual performer on every track. (Imagine that.) Like, it’s actually his debut album, and not some weird construction from his label trying to trick R&B fans into liking rap.

As you might expect, everything is pretty crude: Blow’s rhymes are not very sophisticated, and often just about how much fun it is to listen to (his) music. And his delivery is very traditional, as you would expect. Blow does scat at one point, which I really didn’t see coming. So that’s interesting,

The underlying music is played by a live band for the most part. And I’m sorry to say but I find that extremely endearing. One of my biggest problems with hip hop, especially before I started actively listening to it, was its reliance on samples. This band is pretty decent, as evidenced by their breaks and bridges. (They’re hardly incredible, but they’re certainly more than competent.)

I admire his attempts to stretch outside his genre but he is not a good singer. “All I Want In This World” is pretty bad and actually reminds me of rappers who sing deliberately badly. (I wonder if this track was an influence on that trend in the ’90s.) And the cover of “Takin’ Care of Business”, which some claim is the first rap rock crossover, is really unnecessary. (Is it a rap rock crossover if the rapper is singing???)

But the biggest problem, from my understanding, is the original LP’s omission of the first part of Kurtis Blow’s recent big single. The B side is the lead track but they left off the single. Now, I haven’t heard it (though it’s a bonus track) but apparently it’s a big deal in hip hop history. So it’s strange it’s not on the original LP.

Anyway, I think this is probably a major landmark, especially given that hip hop was a singles medium prior to 1980. But this record is flawed – albeit nowhere near as flawed as the Sugar Hill Gang debut.


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