Country’s hip-hop scene tip-top says rap legend

The Copenhagen Post caught a ride to share a day in the life of one of the pioneers of urban music, Kurtis Blow

“It is great to see so many people coming out to support hip-hop,” said American rapper Kurtis Blow at Tivoli on Friday September 6, ahead of his impromptu performance at the venue’s 25 years of hip-hop celebration.

“But it is also hard, with so many people, most of whom don’t know who I am, but I know who I am.”

Unfortunately the security guard standing at the back stage entrance didn’t.

Blow was due on stage imminently with the first Danish rap group, Rockers by Choice. “He is going on stage,” said one of the event’s promoters. “No bracelet, no entry,” came the reply.

A long, rewarding day shadowing Blow discussing hip-hop at various venues across Zealand was about to unravel in a shuddering anticlimax.  

The hip-hop pioneer
It is rare to be able to meet people who kick-started a massive cultural movement, but there can be no doubts about the significant role Blow has played in the hip-hop world. Born in 1959 in the Bronx, New York, he was there at the beginning when Kool Herc was spinning James Brown, b-boys fought for women and attention, and block parties were the main events.

In 1979 he signed with Mercury Records to become the first rapper signed to a major label. At the time Dr Dre was in high school, the Wu-Tang Clan was in elementary school and Lil Wayne wasn’t even born yet.

What followed were the first certified gold hip-hop album, a world tour, another first for a rapper, and the introduction of a now hip-hop stable: sampling.

All around the world
Blow came to Denmark to make an episode of ‘Hip Hop Around the World‘, a TV series about local hip-hop cultures.  

“The idea came about in 2007, when I was touring with my son,” he explained. “We filmed this incredible show in Bulgaria, but the quality was really bad. However, I wanted to revisit the idea and make this happen.”

The goal of the programme is to show the American public that hip-hop is everywhere and introduce them to acts they otherwise might never know.

He may be an absentee from the stage, but the stage presence is still therePassing on the knowledge
The first stop of the day was the rhythmic school in the tiny town of Vig – a chance for Blow to pass on his knowledge to hopeful youngsters wanting to make it in the rap game. About ten years ago, Blow found God and he explained that part of his salvation is focusing on the future generations.

“Socrates said that we all need to find our tilos, our purpose, and we need to adjust our life to it,” he said. “I have had the money, the sex and the drugs, and the more I had, the greedier I got. Only later I found out that what matters is to serve God and to help people, and speaking to the kids is a part of that.”

He talked in front of an auditorium filled with the school’s students, and his face lit up with nostalgia as he told stories of when he ruled the world and performed with musical icons like Bob Marley and the Clash, to name just a few.

Blow spoke about the reason why he has stopped rapping. “I didn’t wanna be a gangster,” he explained.

Blow’s clean-cut rap and his critical stance towards obscene gangster rap has made him somewhat alienated from large parts of the hip-hop community.

“When I started, we had rules, and MCs were part of building up the community. Now they are a part of tearing it down,” he said. “I have faced a lot of backlash for what I say, and now they are gonna call me a hater, but I know I speak the truth.”

Blow backs Christiania
A part of understanding hip-hop is to explore not just the music, but also the culture, so the second stop after Vig was the freetown of Christiania.

“You could not have a place like this in Harlem,” he joked.

After meeting Albert Hatchwell, the co-founder of the skate brand ALIS, we were rushed to Hereford Steak House to meet Rockers by Choice, the pioneers of Danish hip-hop. They were clearly impressed.

Exclamations like “You made us wanna rap” and “You are our hero” and similarly flattering statements were thrown around. And then, following an interview, the star-struck 40-year-olds told Blow: “You have to perform with us tonight.”

At Tivoli, several members of Rockers by Choice lobbied for Blow to be let in, and the security guard backed down to allow Blow to take his place among the legends of Danish hip-hop – a celebration of a culture he helped create.

“It was just great to be on stage. I heard some nice beats and I loved the crowd.”

A surreal Suspekt steak
It might be that the young and the mainstream have forgotten a lot about this important figure in the cultural canon that is hip-hop, but it is obvious the rap world hasn’t forgotten Blow.

For the last stop of the night, we headed over to the studio of one of Denmark’s biggest rap groups, Suspekt, where Blow was greeted by the same amount of honour and respect as before. The band cooked a steak dinner and Blow, who is also an ordained minister, blessed the food. It was all was very surreal.

As the night wound down, and the discussions about the industry and the changing world of hip-hop finished, Blow was obviously elated by the reception he has received and impressed by Denmark and its hip-hop scene.

“I have to say from the bottom of my heart that hip-hop is alive and well in Denmark,” he said. “It is real; it has its opinion, its voice and its identity. And it is here for everyone to see.”

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