Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Basketball" by Kurtis Blow

Song#:  2284
Date:  04/13/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Hip-Hop

Pop Bits:  Kurtis Blow was the first hip-hop artist signed to a major label (Mercury) and it paid off when his single "The Breaks" became the first rap song to go gold. The song and his debut album would influence many artists to come. Blow continued to record albums, but none of them produced a second crossover single. However, his fifth LP, 1984's Ego Trip, included a track that started to get the attention of folks not only in music, but in sports as well. "Basketball" was Blow's ode to the NBA, which had been reaching new heights in popularity at the time through stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and a new up-n-coming kid named Michael Jordan. The tie-in to the NBA got the song attention and it got issued as a single. It did fine at R&B getting to #29, but its popular video and NBA tie-in helped it reach the Pop chart for a few weeks. It would be Blow's last and best effort on the Pop chart. Later in the year, his next album America would feature his second biggest hit, "If I Ruled the World," which got to #16 R&B and #25 Dance. Unfortunately, it wouldn't make the Pop chart. Blow recorded two more albums before retreating behind the scenes and working as a producer for artists like Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, and Wyclef Jean.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that when I hear tracks like this, I miss ol' skool hip-hop. I love the hook with the female singers, the groove, the big drum beat, and the rap. With the time-oriented references, the song is dated, but its still a cool listen. Rap would grow and change exponentially over the next decade with some very important tracks to come, but these fun early raps still hold up and make me jam and smile.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This was the first and big step in what would be a long partnership between the NBA and hip-hop music. Apparently, the NBA commissioner at the time, David Stern, found out about the song and thought that it held significant marketing potential. It wasn't long before the song was used for NBA promos and Blow was hired to do concerts following NBA games, which filled seats with a young audience who attended the games, but were really there to see Blow. The cross marking worked and more NBA/hip-hop promotions would follow over the years. At a time when hip-hop was trying to break through to the masses, it was very significant that a cross-culture organization like the NBA embraced the new genre and its artists.


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