Simmons became Kurtis’ manager after he embarked on a career as a solo MC. He was the first rapper to be signed to a major record company back during a time when rap was not wholly respected as art or acknowledged in mainstream radio.
His biggest hit, “The Breaks,” was released in 1980 and landed in the top five on Billboard’s R&B chart and became a certified gold single.
With other rap artists emerging on the scene during the early and ’80s, Kurtis’ popularity declined although he continued to make recordings throughout the decade and honed his producing talents to help another famous rap act, the Fat Boys, whom he also helped land a recording contract.
In the ’90s, Kurtis was revered as an architect of hip-hop, with artists such as fellow New York rapper Nas and R&B group Next sampling his songs. He also contributed a rap song the daytime TV drama “One Life to Live,” hosted an old-school radio show based in Los Angeles and made an appearance on the 1997 rap documentary “Rhyme and Reason.”
Kurtis moved back to New York, became a licensed minister and started his own church. He also formed a gospel group called Kurtis Blow & the Trinity. He stated publicly that even though his lives his life for God now, he never stopped making music.
“It was a gradual transition,” he said. “The music business is really a spiritual business, wither we know it or not.”
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