In 1979, Blow signed a deal with Mercury Records, making him the first rapper signed by a major label. His album Christmas Rappin’ sold more than 400,000 copies. His follow-up album, The Breaks, went gold, led by its iconic title track: “Brakes on a bus, brakes on a car, breaks to make you a superstar.”
Blow was soon officially a superstar as well. He went on to release 10 albums over the next 11 years. This included 1985’s America, featuring the song “If I Ruled the World.” The song cracked the Top 5 on the Billboard charts on first release, and returned (in sample form) a decade later when Nas’s version debuted at No. 1. Blow also produced albums for artists like The Fat Boys, Run-D.M.C., Russell Simmons and Wyclef Jean. His influence on hip-hop was so profound that rapper Run of the seminal trio Run-D.M.C. initially called himself the “Son of Kurtis Blow” when just starting his career.
As his rap career progressed, Blow – a devout Christian – made a commitment to himself to keep his lyrics family-friendly. “I’ve recorded over two hundred songs and I have never used a profanity and I always thought that was just me trying to have some dignity, some integrity,” Blow said. “I knew that in order for this thing [hip-hop] to last and spread all around the world, it had to be wholesome, it had to be something that families could listen to, something people could play for their kid, something you could sing in church and I can sing all my songs in church.” Blow’s songs include “Magic Words,” a track recorded with a children’s rap group about the importance of saying “please” and “thank you.”