Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kurtis Blow

  • Kurtis Blow [Mercury, 1980] B+
  • Deuce [Mercury, 1981] B+
  • Tough [Mercury, 1982] B
  • Party Time? [Mercury, 1983] A-
  • Ego Trip [Mercury, 1984] B-
  • America [Mercury, 1985] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Kurtis Blow [Mercury, 1980]
Ramones fans will claim his first-beat sledgehammer is monotonous; I enjoy its simplicity just like I do the Ramones'. Not as much, I admit--"All I Want in the World (Is to Find That Girl)" would be a retarded change of pace even if Kurtis talked it, and he doesn't. But though it bodes ill for both his rhythms and his politics, the bare competence of his Bachman-Turner Overdrive cover has special charm, and his hit metapun is a true breakthrough. B+

Deuce [Mercury, 1981]
It's hard to believe six different social observers collaborated on these raps--"Take It to the Bridge," the throwaway boast, is more meaningful than "Starlife," the wishful single--and Kurtis's natural singsong makes me grind my teeth. But the light, spare, clean, catchy, inauthentic funk rings my bell--every cut, every time. B+

Tough [Mercury, 1982]
The title track breaks out more breaks, "Baby, You've Got to Go" makes the most of its bad sexual politics, and the rhythm tributes are rhythmic enough. But even on a five-song mini his speech rhythms wear as thin as his singing, which he still hopes is his future. B

Party Time? [Mercury, 1983]
If Kurtis's strongest album has a problem, it's Kurtis, who despite his quick lips and habit of command doesn't sound entirely at home with all this lovingly streetified social-awareness-you-can-dance-to. But who ever said rap was about words? The muscular funk that powered the sound systems when Kurtis was coming up combines with the digitalia that shakes the B-boxes now and some well-placed hook riffs to get him through the hyperconscious patches. A-

Ego Trip [Mercury, 1984]
After declaring for revolution, always a good move, Kurtis slips in a sidelong "to the next phase," and he's clearly trying to get there. But unlike his cut buddies in Run-D.M.C., he's a little too headlong to make much music out of the shifts and starts of spare synths, and his political rhymes don't evince the acuteness of observation and fellow feeling one values in a revolutionary. B-

America [Mercury, 1985]
Blow's pop credibility soared when he finally got one of his precious femme choruses on the radio, ruining the otherwise serviceable "Basketball" rap. There's nothing quite so intrusive here, and Blow's singing has come up some--in fact, he's now just what the world needed, another serviceable funk loverboy. Fortunately, he can still talk that talk, and his reunion with Davy DMX makes a lot of noise. B