The first rapper to ever get signed to a major record label
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The first rapper to ever get signed to a major record label

It is fair to say that hip hop in the 1970s was not what it is today. Before record deals were being given to artists at the age of 16 and before a rapper could just upload and share their tracks globally within seconds, hip hop culture and especially rap, was effectively a non-factor in music.

Although hip hop is, of course, different now, it is always important for fans and creators of the genre alike to remember the people and places that helped create the art form.

Hip hop was born in the 1970s in New York. A form of rebellion in hip hop three is the magic number, and the invention of hip hop culture is mainly credited to three individuals along with their affiliates partially. Those three people are DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. Kool Herc is credited with introducing what he calls ‘The Merry-Go-Round Technique’ to African-American DJs to create an extended break. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are credited with introducing MCing over the extended breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore is credited with popularising the scratch technique to add excitement and vigour to records. 

Since the ’70s, hip hop has continued to evolve and grow ever more popular, becoming internationally one of the world’s most popular genres of music. With artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z now achieving billionaire status off the back of this worldwide genre, hip hop is a multi-billion dollar industry that generates wealth.

However, there was once a time when rappers couldn’t even get signed their demos to major record labels, let alone get signed by one. However, that all changed in 1979 when one legendary rapper managed to do the impossible and bag himself a major label deal. This rapper was Kurtis Blow.

New York and, more broadly, America is the home of hip hop, but surprisingly, it was a British record label that was the first to offer a rapper a deal. In 1979 Blow made a palatable, seasonal rap record entitled, ‘Christmas Rappin’.

With the track’s producers (J.B. Moore and Robert Ford), Blow presented the seasonal single to 22 labels and was rejected by all of them until he was taken up by John Stains of UK label Mercury Records UK. The track interpolates Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. Below you can watch Kurtis Blow performing the track on Top Of The Pops in 1980 in Japan.