Rap pioneer Kurtis Blow shouts some encouragement to three male dancers: ”Come on, fellas, let’s get busy one time.” Dressed in a blue Nike running suit and a gold pendant that spells ”B-L-O-W” in large letters, the singer is conducting a rehearsal for ABC’s daytime drama One Life to Live. In a mirrored dressing room at the show’s New York studio, Blow begins a musical chant as the dancers stomp their multicolored high tops and gyrate to the rhythms of a gulf war tribute. The tune begins: ”The war is over and the troops are coming home/Back to the land of the buffalo/Spread the love and cheerful glee/’Cause yo, we’re celebrating victory.”
”Tie a Yellow Ribbon” it’s not. This rap, ”The Troops Are Coming Back Home,” is one of six that Blow has written since he began his stint as the show’s rap consultant last October. The polished version of the routine, with Blow playing himself, will air April 24 as part of an ongoing story line about the police commissioner’s only son, Kerry (Allan Dean Moore), who has dropped out of college against his father’s wishes to pursue a rap career.
This first-ever combination of rap and daytime drama was a lucky coincidence. ”I had been a big fan of the show for three years,” Blow says, ”and a friend who had been a stagehand got me a pass. I came to get autographs and meet the cast, and the casting director told me they were doing a rap story and might need a consultant — if the price was right.”
Blow, who released his biggest hit, ”The Breaks,” in 1980 (it sold more than 500,000 copies), welcomed the opportunity. ”I like it because it’s history-making. I’ve been the first to do many things: first rapper to be signed to a major label, first to do a national commercial [for Sprite], first to tour in Europe and in the States.” In conversation, the 30-year-old Blow (who changed his last name from Walker) finds himself naturally drifting into verse, as when he talks about his early work with Run-DMC: ”My DJ Run, my disco son/Loves to play music/And have big fun.”
Blow’s life and One Life are connected by more than song. Like Kerry in the soap’s story, he left college (the City University of New York) to make it as a rapper. ”I took a leave. It was my third year and I was studying to be a newscaster. I was just looking to make a couple of side bucks to pay tuition. I didn’t think it would get that big.” It did, however, and although Blow has been eclipsed by more recent rappers — M.C. Hammer, for one — he’s still the funkiest guy ever to hit the fictional town of Llanview.