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You can’t discuss hip hop without mentioning the legendary Kurtis Blow. In 1979, he became the first rapper to be signed by a major label. “The Breaks,” which became the first hip hop record to be certified gold by the RIAA, became a ground-breaking song that defined the musical genre. Additionally, he was the first hip hop artist to film a commercial as well as the first to bring rap overseas to Europe when he went on tour with The Clash.
The rap legend is now venturing into the world of NFTs, which are non-fungible tokens. For those of you who don’t know a lot about them, NFTs are digital assets that represent real-world objects like music, art, videos and in-game items. Through a collaboration with Godspeed Labs and Launch, Kurtis announced that “The Breaks” will become the first classic hip hop NFT collection. The limited-edition NFTs were designed by Michael Walker, his son, and only 41 numbered versions of the gold-record plaque will be released to honor the 41st anniversary of the hit song.
REVOLT caught up with the hip hop pioneer and his son to talk about how he got into NFTs, how it can bridge the gap between the older and younger hip hop generations, and more. Check out the conversation below.
Tell us about your NFT launch.
Michael: [We launched on June 4] at 9 a.m. PST and we’re doing a collection of NFTs celebrating the 41st anniversary of “The Breaks.” As you know, “The Breaks” was a pretty groundbreaking song. This month marks the 41st anniversary of “The Breaks,” which was the first certified gold record for hip hop. That number 41 definitely stuck in our mind a lot. So, we’re doing 41 copies of this NFT, 41 limited-edition copies. And the auction will be going live for 41 hours. This is our first drop of an NFT. It’s super exciting for myself and the family, and we have a couple of digital partners that we’ve worked with in terms of marketing and just getting the word out. We’re super excited.
What made you want to get into the NFT space?
Kurtis: I was motivated by my son right here, Michael Walker. He convinced me that it was the newest sensation for artists, like myself, to get out there and actually just release different, crazy memorabilia and artifacts that I have sitting around here in the house. I was going to put it in the Universal Hip Hop Museum as well, but these things — relics and pictures and old songs and videos that are so rare, that you’ll never see — we have the opportunity to let the public be aware, and they can own it, and purchase it, and be a part of my legacy and my history. I thought it was a great opportunity. I think it’s great for artists to reach back and get with their fans — well I don’t have fans now. I call them friends. Once you buy a Kurtis Blow record, you’re a friend now. I wanted to reach back and connect with those people who have supported me.
What does it mean to be able to release such an important hip hop record like “The Breaks” as the first hip hop NFT collection?
Kurtis: For me, it’s amazing first and foremost to be in the position because I just had a heart transplant — an incredible surgery that was successful. I cannot begin to tell you all the blessings and miracles that I have experienced within the last couple of years going in and out of the hospital, dealing with many surgeries. I have a whole new outlook on life and just to be in the position to have this memorabilia, this incredible artifact that people can own, is the most incredible thing. This is such an amazing situation for me, as well as all of my friends and family and fans out there. I just think it’s a miracle — another one of those miracles that I’ve been experiencing this year.
How do you think the launch will bridge the gap between the older and younger hip hop generation?
Micheal: Good question. I think that from a bird’s eye view, people my age, my generation are not always aware or don’t always acknowledge the contributions of the pioneering hip hop artists. Some people just don’t know, some people just don’t care or whatever it may be. And that’s a shame. You really have to acknowledge the history and look back to see where we can even go. In terms of the NFT space, it’s kind of a budding space. So, a lot of younger folks in the crypto community are really taking hold with this. I think that the introduction of these classic artifacts will help to bridge that gap and just bring interest from both sides to the same table.
Last year, you underwent heart transplant surgery. How does it feel to go from that moment to celebrating this release?
Kurtis: That’s the whole deal in a nutshell. It is part of the miracle. I am a walking, living, breathing testimony of the power of God. God is still in the miracle business and this NFT is one of those miracles. Who would think? Six months ago, I’m thinking about my funeral and leaving my legacy to my sons, getting them ready to live life after I’m gone. Six months ago, the doctors were saying, “You’re only going to be around here for another six months to a year, so you need to make arrangements or get this heart transplant.” It’s just a miracle and an awesome blessing. I went through five heart surgeries and God was there blessing me with the great physicians every time.
I’m so grateful, I’m so honored. I have a new life, a new second chance, a new outlook. And when something like this happens to you — when you’re in a life-threatening situation and death is knocking at the door and God spares you from it — you change. You start seeing things differently, and you wanna change your life and live your life differently. I do not want to go back to all the sinning and all the crazy stuff, and the lifestyle I was living before that. So, I have a whole new transformation that I’m going through. And it’s incredible.
What do you hope to achieve with this launch?
Kurtis: I think the connection with the people is first and foremost. We have the opportunity to let everyone know that God is still in the miracle business and this is one of the blessings that I present to everyone. I just wanna say thank you to everyone for supporting me all these years. All of the radio DJs who played my records over the years. Like “Christmas Rappin’,” every year they play it during Christmas time. That’s a big part of my legacy, the fact that I’ve had so much support from radio and just the media, and the people at large. This is my giving back to them. Now you can own a piece of the history that you made happen for me.
Michael: I would really like to see this be the starting point or a catalyst for a new way of thinking about collaboration in music and in crypto. This is also the beginning of Black Music History Month, so I think that it’s a really well-positioned moment to hopefully open the door for more things like this to happen. Kurtis has always been super gracious with his energy in terms of collaboration and working with other people to bring hip hop into new spaces and, hopefully, this is just a continuation of that for both him and myself.
What’s next for you?
Kurtis: I’m also working with an organization called the United Coalition For Humanity. It’s an organization of a group of people trying to unite all the people of color and people of humanity that are coming together to say we wanna feel loved, protected and supported. We want to see people live together and live life more abundantly and not just survive, but thrive. This is our mission: We want to eradicate all of the injustices that are out there plaguing humanity. We have about nine committees and we’re working hard; diligently to try to make change for humanity and life, in general, to make things better. You can go to the website UCFH.org and join us.