Kurtis Blow made his first appearance in Pittsburgh in 1980 opening for the Commodores.
“I came there and sang ‘The Breaks’ with the Commodores and the people showed me love,” Blow fondly recalls. “I have a buddy that lives there, he goes by the name of Paparazzi, he’s a well-known photographer.”
The legendary rapper will be returning to the Steel City this holiday season to present an updated twist on a Christmas classic, “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker.”
This ain’t your mama’s version.
Still set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, it tells the story of Maria Clara and the Nutcracker prince who go on a dream adventure when her parents first meet at a nightclub in 1980s Brooklyn in a colorful and contemporary New York City. Through the modern, self-expressive gaze of hip-hop culture, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s beloved story is remixed and celebrates the magic of New Year’s Eve, a time for new beginnings. A full-length production, “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” features 12 dancers, an on-stage DJ, electric violinist and of course, Blow.
“‘The Hip-Hop Nutcracker’ is an incredible play. It’s rolling around the country giving up love and showing how we all can get along. It’s really about the magic of the holiday season that is the best time of the year, so all your family and your friends you can bring to this play, it’s a really good mash up that just shows love,” Blow told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview. Blow performs a short set at the start of the show before rapping the introduction, “It shows how you can use love to defeat hate and evil.”
Part of the Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents series, “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” will run at the Benedum Center, Dec. 11-12. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased by visiting www.trustarts.org. The show is directed and choreographed by Lucille Lortel and Bessie nominated choreographer, Jennifer Weber, and executive produced by two-time Tony-Award winning producer Eva Price.
“I wanted to be involved in something that was top of the line for hip-hop and this is it,” said Blow, who got his start in the genre almost 40 years ago. “We are part of a holiday classic and infusing that music with hip-hop is an incredible combination. I love that sound. When I first started with the play five years ago, I was working on a song that had orchestra instrumentation and Tchaikovsky’s music has the big orchestral sound that I love.”
Born Kurtis Walker in 1959 in New York, Blow got bit by the music bug in grade school while mingling with his mother’s party guests and taking their music requests. By the time he was a teenager, he had a fake ID and was sneaking into nightclubs in the Big Apple to hear DJs spin their records.
While still in high school, Blow began creating his own tracks under the name Kool DJ Kurt but by the end of the ‘70s he became disenchanted because the music had lost its individuality. So he started creating his own rhymes and beats on his own turntable. In 1979 at the age of 20, Blow signed a major record deal with Mercury Records, becoming the first rapper signed to a major record label. The label released “Christmas Rappin” and it sold more than 400,000 copies. His sophomore album, “The Breaks,” went gold. He has released 10 albums in 11 years and has produced albums for The Fat Boys, Run DMC and Wyclef Jean.
Blow is glad to be returning back to Pittsburgh with “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker.”
“Pittsburgh has always been one of my favorite cities. You guys have got some incredible sports teams,” explained Blow, a self-proclaimed sports fanatic and ordained minister. “I’m a big fan of Big Ben and the Steelers, man I’m telling you, that Steel Curtain goes way back! It will always be a part of my life and my history. I remember seeing them hit many people very, very hard. I’m glad to be bringing love to Pittsburgh because Pittsburgh has been a supporter of hip-hop since 1980.”
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