Rapper Turned Minister Kurtis Blow Is 50 Kurtis Blow, one of the first superstars of rap, celebrates his 50th birthday Sunday. His 1980 megahit "The Breaks" introduced to the world a new sound that would come to be called "rap." NPR's Guy Raz called him up in Burlington, Vt., where he is currently on tour, to find out what he has been doing lately.

Rapper Turned Minister Kurtis Blow Is 50

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GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Today marks a hip-hop milestone. One of the first superstars of rap, Kurtis Blow, is now eligible to become a member of the AARP. It's his 50th birthday, and as he himself might have said, well, that's the breaks.

(Soundbite of song, "The Breaks")

Mr. KURTIS BLOW (Musician): (Singing) Clap your hands, everybody, if you've got what it takes because I'm Kurtis Blow and I want you to know that these are the breaks.

RAZ: This track, "The Breaks," was one of the first rap megahits. After the song's release in 1980, Kurtis Blow was destined for rap's pantheon. But we were wondering, whatever happened to Kurtis Blow? So to help us explain is Kurtis Blow. He's on the line with us from Burlington, Vermont, where he's on tour. Happy birthday.

Mr. BLOW: Hey, thank you, thank you very much.

RAZ: So what are you up to these days?

Mr. BLOW: Well, a lot of things. I am presently a licensed minister of the Gospels of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and I'm presently on tour right now with my group, Kurtis Blow & the Trinity.

RAZ: Wow.

Mr. BLOW: We have a new CD out. Actually, it's our sophomore CD called "Father, Son & the Holy Ghost."

RAZ: So I should call you minister.

Mr. BLOW: Yes, sir.

RAZ: So how did you go from a rap legend to a preacher? I mean, you were cutting records. You were in the movie "Krush Groove." How did you get to where you are now?

Mr. BLOW: Well, it was a gradual transition. You know, being in the music business is really, really a spiritual business, whether we know it or not. And I was just sitting around, reading the Bible and got so into it, I couldn't put it down. And I got to the last book in the Bible, Revelations, and it's sort of like a prophecy, that things that are about to happen, the things that are to come. I said to myself, look, I'd better get my act together before all this stuff starts to happen.

I finally got saved. From there, I was doing Bible studies at my house and learning more about God and Jesus. And it was just incredible, until I moved back to New York and started my own ministry called the Hip Hop Church.

RAZ: Minister Walker, when you released "The Breaks" as Kurtis Blow, back in 1980, you made history. I mean, you were the first rapper on "Soul Train." Were you aware that you were part of this new sound, which would come to be called rap?

Mr. BLOW: Oh, yeah, of course. My whole thing in hip-hop goes all the way back to 1972, being a beat-boy, breakdancer myself, and then I became a DJ. It was pretty cool. You know, hip-hop was around a long time before those first records came out.

RAZ: Minister Walker, you now are the minister at the Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Harlem, and you're on a gospel tour right now, traveling around the country, and you're in Burlington, Vermont, as we mentioned. Are you performing, are you preaching or both?

Mr. BLOW: I minister in song, as we call it, singing gospel raps, the holy hip-hop of Christian raps, and I also preach. I preach and teach around the country.

RAZ: Can you give us a sample of what your music sounds like now? Can you sing a bit for us?

Mr. BLOW: (Singing) Just the devastation in our nation, a ball of confusion. We need a church revolution to deliberate as the antidote. Disciple the word; haven't you heard? Oh no, they're blinded. It's time to get heavenly reminded. Like King, I have a dream. The Gospel was believed and received from the start, just the part from that evil one. Stick a fork in Satan until the sucker's done. Turn to God, son. No more guns.

RAZ: Minister Kurtis Blow Walker, you haven't lost it.

Mr. BLOW: Well, praise God. Those are the blessings. I'm just blessed, really, really fortunate to be around at 50 years old, praise God, and I feel like I have another 50 left. So watch out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Kurtis Blow Walker, one of the early prophets of hip-hop, is a minister at the Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Harlem. We spoke to him in Burlington, Vermont. Minister Walker, thanks for joining us, and happy birthday.

Mr. BLOW: Oh, thank you. Thank you so very much, and God bless you. God bless you all.

(Soundbite of song, "The Breaks")

Mr. BLOW: (Singing) If your woman steps out with another man, and she runs off with him to Japan, and the IRS says they want tax, and you can't explain why (unintelligible) and Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill with 18 phone calls to Brazil, and your (unintelligible), and yesterday you lost your job. Well, these are the breaks. Break it up, break it up, break it up.

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