Even though hip hop had been born during the 1970s at New York block parties and park jams, it wasn’t until ’79 with the release of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” that the genre had a commercial foothold.
Around this time, a young aspiring rapper by the name of Kurtis Blow, inspired by the likes of Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Hollywood, began making his way into the rap world. Blow became the first rapper to be signed by a major label when he inked a deal with Mercury in 1979.
“Here it is this kid from Harlem who is signed to a major label and it was awesome, incredible,” he said in an interview with PopMatters. “Being a college student and majoring in Communications, it was very, very incredible, special to me.”
“It was huge for hip-hop because being on a major label means major press, major publicity, major offices in every major city. I just went and worked the system. Being in communications, I went to the publicity and promotions department and my thing was, ‘Send me everywhere! I’ll go anywhere and everywhere.'”
Shortly after signing the deal, Blow released “Christmas Rappin'” on the label, which became a huge success, selling over 400,000 copies. The initial idea for the song, which was created before the rapper signed to Mercury, came from producers J.B. Moore and Robert Ford.
“J.B. had the idea of making a Christmas song and doing something different that would last throughout the ages,” Blow said in an interview with Delaware Online. “J.B. Moore and Robert Ford, they were very special producers. They had the idea that they wanted to do something musical, and mix it with hip-hop, which was basically a street thing I had been doing for seven to eight years.”
While the producers came up with the idea for the song and wrote the initial part, Blow explained that he contributed to the second half of the song.
“So, J.B. wrote the first half, I wrote the second part. J.B. wrote the Christmas part,” he said. “He came up with the idea of Santa Claus visiting a house up in Harlem on Christmas Eve. I wrote the second half, which is what happened after Santa Claus got into the party.”
After the success of “Christmas Rappin'” Kurtis Blow released the hugely impactful “The Breaks”, which ended up becoming the first certified gold rap song in history, and he would go on to cement his legacy as one of the greatest 80s rappers of all time.
I was first signed as a British artist, and my records were imports. This was the deal that they gave me. I could do a single. If I sold more than 30,000 copies, I could do another single. Then I have to sell more than 100,000 copies and then I can do an album. First single, “Christmas Rappin,'” sold over 373,000 copies. “The Breaks” came out and sold over 940,000 copies, becoming the first certified gold hip-hop record.Kurtis Blow tells the tale of “Christmas Rappin'” | Delaware Online