Rock Moment: Kurtis Blow n’ Bob Dylan, 1986
Kurtis Blow was a pioneering rapper. He was one of the first hip-hop artists to be signed to a major label, and he scored a major success in 1980 with his smash hit “The Breaks.” He was even popular with other audiences, as he opened for the Clash just a few years later. But by 1986, Kurtis was struggling; his newest album Kingdom Blow was not well received.
One song, “Street Rock,” featured an unlikely guest rapper – 1960s rock legend Bob Dylan. Or was it unlikely? Some people believe Dylan actually created modern hip-hop, with his 1965 classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Well … “Street Rock” is certainly interesting, as it kicks off with Dylan’s rapping (more like fast talking) and rolls into Blow’s more conventional rap vocals. It’s worth wading through to the end, when the two trade verses as the song climaxes. Brilliant!
In his recent autobiography, Dylan said that Kurtis turned him on to the music of other rappers including Ice T, Public Enemy and Run DMC. “These guys weren’t standing around bullshitting,” Dylan writes. “They were beating drums, tearing shit up, hurling horses over cliffs.” OK, Bob, whatever. I can just visualize these two guys hanging out (in fact, we created a photo of what this classic moment might look like – see above). Here’s the nine-minute-long “Street Rock.”