Finding The GOAT: Kurtis Blow vs. Kool Moe Dee…Who You Got?
As we continue the ultimate battle for the title of the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), we are asking you to help us rank who is the greatest MC to pick up a mic. We will take over 35 years of Hip-Hop into consideration, pairing special match-ups in a sequence not unlike March Madness. For the next several months, we will roll out battles, starting with artists from similar eras paired against one another, until one undisputed King or Queen of the microphone reigns supreme.
The next two MCs to square-off carried Hip-Hop and the act of rapping (or super-rappin’) from the 1970s style into the late ’80s and early 1990s: Kurtis Blow and Kool Moe Dee. Manhattan natives known for big visual styles, bright fashions, and very opposing demeanors always led with the bars and cadences, telling it strictly like it is, with ties to Disco, R&B, and New Jack Swing. These are iconic artists who, while history may not always honor them to the extent that they deserve, achieved many “firsts” for the genre. These contemporaries sometimes ran in different circles, but both did so much for this thing of ours. Listen to these artists’ music, message and read up on their impact before casting your vote.
Rap’s first gold-selling single-maker was revolutionary in making stardom out of what began in the park-jams, discos, and block parties. Harlem’s Kurtis Blow had the flare of an R&B or Disco star with his flashy outfits, stylized hair, and grand on-stage routines—exactly what it took to legitimize Hip-Hop to the mainstream at the turn of the ’80s, leading into the Reagan-era. Moreover, unlike the Sugarhill Gang, Blow’s ties to some of Hip-Hop’s pioneers made him a “for Us, by Us” sort of icon, appreciated by insiders and accessible to outsiders of the culture.
Blow’s amicable personality, strong sense of place through the images of his verses, and his pulse on the party has made him iconic. One of Rap’s first major label artists, the Mercury-backed Blow released eight albums, a powerful force in moving Rap out of 12″ singles and into cohesive, thematic projects. Along the way, K.B.—who has since become a powerful radio personality, film producer, and priest, made innocent-minded records that still had substance and bravado. Listening back today, there is a comfort and bliss to Kurtis Blow’s music, even if he was describing a complicated New York, an Everyman struggle to keep the lights on, or the drug epidemic. In the midst of this, Kurtis made street-supported jams about simple things: basketball, the holiday season, or the rappers around him (25 years before Game brought name-dropping into full focus).
With Rev Run as an early DJ, and Russell Simmons as a manager, Kurtis Blow—like Grandmaster Flash and Kool Moe Dee, was a critical bridge between Hip-Hop in the ’70s, and Rap in the early ’90s. Influential, trend-setting, and the first to reach many benchmarks, Kurtis Blow is a Neil Armstrong within his craft, and he’s still performing, educating, and biggin’ up his peers nearly 40 years later.
Other Notable Tracks:
Kool Moe Dee
Kool Moe Dee was highly present as the first national and international Rap records were being pressed. An integral member of The Treacherous Three MCs, the Manhattan-born Mohandas Dewese was known as one of Rap’s first hay-maker MCs, vying for top spot all the time, among his peers. Barely into his twenties, Moe Dee accosted Busy Bee in a legendary changing of the guard, before famously entering a long-standing rivalry with LL Cool J, that lasted into the 1990s.
Kool Moe Dee’s attitude, and commanding lyrics set a tone into the 1980s. One of the first artists that was part of an acclaimed group to successfully transition solo, Kool was influential and heavily ahead of his time. Working out of genre (from The Isley Brothers to Zebrahead to Regina Belle), Moe Dee always showed those who studied him what Rap was truly capable of. Always charged in the booth, the sunglasses-donning MC’s approach was pushing hard rhymes over catchy beats. While they haven’t necessarily aged as seamlessly as some of K.M.D’s contemporaries, he was on the ground floor of “New Jack Swing,” with his close producer Teddy Riley in tow. Kool Moe Dee remains a critical link between the eras of Grandmaster Caz and Spoonie Gee through to that of KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane.
Perhaps like his peers, Kool Moe Dee is at his best on stage. Built around showmanship, the artist who helped bring Hip-Hop to the Grammy stage remains actively doing concerts, even if his recording output has waned. Today, as he was on albums for nearly 15 years, Kool Moe Dee is nothing to mess with, and an emblematic artist who carried the torch, produced hits, and made it look cool to Rap.
Other Notable Tracks:
So…who you got?
Voting For Round 1 is now closed. Stay up to date with the latest Finding The GOAT brackets