As the first commercially successful rap artist, Kurtis Blow is a towering figure in hip-hop history. His popularity and charisma helped prove that rap music was something more than a flash-in-the-pan novelty, paving the way for the even greater advances of Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. Blow was the first rapper to sign with (and release an album for) a major label; the first to have a single certified gold (“”The Breaks””); the first to embark on a national (and international) concert tour; and the first to cement rap’s mainstream marketability by signing an endorsement deal. For that matter, he was really the first significant solo rapper on record, and as such he was a natural focal point for many aspiring young MCs in the early days of hip-hop. Blow’s second single, “”The Breaks,”” was an out-of-the-box smash, following “”Rapper’s Delight”” into the Top Five of the R&B chart. ; it still ranks as one of old school rap’s greatest and most enduring moments. The full-length album Kurtis Blow made the R&B Top Ten in spite of many assumptions that the Sugarhill Gang’s success was a one-time fluke. The poverty-themed “”Hard Times”” marked perhaps the first instance of hip-hop’s social consciousness, and was later covered by Run-D.M.C. Blow also made his mark as a producer, working with a variety of hip-hop and R&B artists; most notably, he helmed most of the Fat Boys’ records after helping them get a record deal. Ego Trip sold respectably well on the strength of cuts like the DJ tribute “”AJ Scratch,”” the agreeably lightweight “”Basketball,”” and the Run-D.M.C. duet “”8 Million Stories.”” Blow followed it with an appearance in the cult hip-hop film Krush Groove, in which he performed “”If I Ruled the World,”” his biggest hit since “”The Breaks.””.