‘The Voice’ is Born: August 9 in Hip-Hop History
Today's history includes the birth of one of the biggest stars in music, the death of a king of comedy, a breakout single the notorious one from Brooklyn and much more.
1959 - Kurtis Blow is Born
Kurtis Blow, one of hip-hop’s founding fathers and the first rap artist to be signed by a major record label, celebrates his 59th birthday today. Blow started in the early stages of hip-hop first as a break-dancer, then as a block party and club DJ, going by the name Kool DJ Kurt. While attending CCNY in 1976, he was a program director for the college radio station and became friends with Russell Simmons. A year later, he became an MC and changed his name to Kurtis Blow as suggested by Simmons. Remember the film Krush Groove, the movie that told the story of Russell Simmons and the early days of Def Jam Recordings? It might not have happened as it did in the film, but Blow was only 20 years old when he signed with Mercury Records and has been instrumental to the industry ever since. He released ten albums in 11 years with big hits like “Christmas Rappin’,” “The Breaks” and “If I Ruled the World.” He was also the first rapper to tour internationally, with his big hit across Europe, “Party Time,” featuring a fusion of rap and go-go.
Blow is also responsible for rap hits by Run DMC and The Fat Boys. Run started his career as Blow’s protégé, “The Son of Kurtis Blow.” He has also collaborated with the legendary Whitney Houston, El Debarge, Kool & the Gang and many more. His classic songs have been sampled by the who's who of hip-hop, with hits from Nas’ “If I Ruled the World,” The Fugees' “Ready or Not” and Next’s longest-running No. 1 song of 1998 Billboard P Chart, “Too Close.” Blow has kept his hands in hip-hop, producing television shows and movies and recently was the associate producer for Netflix original; The Get Down. He continues to be a pioneer in the hip-hop industry as the co-founder of the Hip-Hop Church, serving as a rapper, DJ, worship leader, and Minister.
1963 - Whitney Houston is Born
From a hip-hop pioneer to a legendary singer, Whitney Houston, one of the greatest voices of all time was born on this day in 1963. Houston was no stranger to the music industry, being the daughter of famed gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin of Dionne Warwick, and goddaughter of Aretha Franklin, music was nurtured in her since birth. As a teenager, Houston was already singing on the scene in New York and had background credits with such acts as Chaka Khan, Mick Zager, and many more. But it was in 1983 when Clive Davis saw Houston performing at a New York nightclub and signed her on the spot. Two years later she released her debut self-titled album, Whitney Houston. The album included hits “You Give Good Love” and three consecutive No.1 singles: The Grammy-winning “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” and “Greatest Love of All.” The album established her as an exceptional new recording artist and went on to sell over 13 million copies in the U.S., plus millions more overseas. This LP set the record as the biggest selling debut album by a solo artist and spent 14 weeks at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and was certified 13x-platinum.
Houston still holds several groundbreaking records to this day. Her second album, Whitney made history as the first female artist to top the Billboard charts at No.1, selling over 9x-platinum with four No. 1 chart-toppers. Every album she released in the course of her career has been certified Platinum. Whitney is the only artist to turn "The National Anthem" into a pop hit as it reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in March 1991 following her fantastic rendition at the 1991 Superbowl. In 2009, she was recognized by the Guinness World Records as being the most awards female act of all time.
Not only was she a phenomenal songstress earning the nickname "The Voice, " but she was also a great actress. Although she only appeared in a few films, her name and talent were enough to draw fans to theaters. Her acting debut in The Bodyguard was the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1992, making $411M. The soundtrack also became the best-selling soundtrack of all time, selling over 45 million copies worldwide due to the success of Whitney's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." The single spent 14 weeks at No. 1 and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1994. Whitney went on to star in 1995's blockbuster hit Waiting to Exhale, 1996's The Preacher's Wife opposite Denzel Washington, and her last film, Sparkle, was released after her death in 2012.
Shortly after the success of The Bodyguard, Houston married who she called the "King of R&B," Bobby Brown and was criticized by many who eventually blamed him for her drug abuse. In an article with People magazine following the release of the latest documentary titled, Whitney, her brother reveals, by all accounts, Houston began using drugs long before she ever met Brown. “Let’s just say Bobby was f—ing lightweight when it came to motherf—ing drugs.” It seems they're dishing everything about Houston including the good, bad and ugly.
Houston has been such a huge influence on so many singers who have come after her from Mariah Carey, Brandy, Monica, Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and even through contestants on shows like American Idol and America's Got Talent. Brandy always listed Whitney as her only idol and the most significant influence on her career. Ironically, Whitney died on Brandy's 33rd birthday, utterly devastating the singer. Brandy told US Weekly, "My heart is destroyed. I lost my idol and dear friend...Whitney-the greatest voice of all time- you are my angel and I will always love you."
Grief struck the world On February 11, 2012, when the world heard of her tragic death at just 48 years old. The news of her death evoked a flood of reactions from fans and fellow celebrities. An invitation-only memorial service was held on February 18 at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., the church where her mother nurtured her talent. Many watched it as it was aired on almost every channel for the world to see. Sadly, on January 31, 2015, her daughter Bobbi Kristina was found in a bathtub unresponsive and remained in a coma for six months until her death. Whitney Houston will always be remembered as one of the greatest voices ever to grace the music industry and pure raw talent.
1970 - WC is Born
On this day in 1970, William Loshawn Calhoun, Jr. aka WC was born. Many may remember him as one of the members of Westside Connection, but before the gangsta rap supergroup, he was a member of another group, Low Profile with DJ Aladdin. The group only released one album called We're in This Together in 1989. He later formed his group, WC and the Maad Circle, which included mentor Big Gee, Coolio, producer Sir Jinx - Chilly Chill, and DJ Crazy Toones. The group released two albums, Ain't a Damn Thing Changed in 1991 and Curb Servin' in 1995. In 1996, he formed Westside Connection with Mack 10 and Ice Cube. The group's debut album, Bow Down, was released the same year, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and certified platinum. The group released its second album, Terrorist Threats, in 2003 and in 2005 the group officially disbanded. WC continued his solo career and debuted with The Shadiest One, in 1998, landing Top 20 in the first week. Since then, he has released three more albums and has appeared in a few films and video games.
1971 - Mack 10 is Born
Exactly a year after bandmate WC, Dedrick D'Mon Rolison aka Mack 10 is born. Mack made his first appearance on "What Can I Do? (Remix)," from Ice Cube's Bootlegs & B-Sides compilation album. In 1995, he released his self-titled album Mack 10. The album went gold, along with his second and third albums, Based on a True Story and The Recipe.
Along with Ice Cube and WC, Mack 10 was a member of Westside Connection. The group disbanded in 2005 due to a conflict between Mack 10 and Ice Cube. Mack 10 married Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, from R&B group TLC and divorced in 2004. They have one daughter together, Chase Anela Rolison, born October 2000.
1994 - Gravediggaz Takes Hip-Hop 6 Feet Deep
The horrorcore supergroup Gravediggaz drops its debut album, 6 Feet Deep. The album rose to No. 36 on the Billboard 200, with three hit singles; "Diary of a Madman," "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" and "1-800 Suicide." The album was well received is considered one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time.
1994 - The Notorious B.I.G. Makes Hip-Hop "Juicy"
Just days after his sudden marriage to Faith Evans, The Notorious B.I.G. released “Juicy.” The song that never gets old had many competitors, including Warren G's "Regulate," Snoop's "Gin and Juice" and even labelmate Craig Mack's "Flavor in Ya Ear." However, "Juicy" is still undoubtedly one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time. In a Rolling Stone article, it listed at No. 8 of greatest songs of all time. Before the beat even drops, Biggie says, “It’s all good, baby BAY-beh” and snatches the crown.
This song gave us everything from the rags-to-riches, sardines for dinner, interview by the pool, paying homage to legendary hip-hop artists, DJs and magazines, and even throwback fashions. "Juicy" gives that hunger and ambition and is the rags-to-riches anthem. Biggie may not have been on board with the Mtume beat at first, but in the end, it all worked out for the best.
1995 - Junior M.A.F.I.A. Say "I Need You Tonight"
After the success with their first single "Player's Anthem," Junior M.A.F.I.A released their second single, "I Need You Tonight" off their debut album, Conspiracy. The album version featured Faith Evans, while the single version featured the late Aaliyah. DJ Clark Kent, who produced the single told Complex, “Faith Evans was on the song at first, but we got Aaliyah involved because she was young. Faith sang the hook first, but it kind of didn’t make sense to have all these young kids on the record with this grown woman singing. We got Aaliyah on the record. Plus, Aaliyah was on Atlantic Records also, so it wasn’t like we had to get her cleared. It made sense, and it felt right." Although it was a good song, the single did not find as much success as the album's other two singles but still became a minor hit on three different Billboard charts.
2005 - Proof is Searching for Jerry Garcia
On this day, Detroit rapper Proof of D12 dropped his second and final album Searching for Jerry Garcia. Tragically, Proof was shot and killed in a local Detroit club in 2006. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Proof explains his inspiration for the album:
"I was watching Searching for Bobby Fisher and Marck Hicks (D12's manager) put in a Jerry Garcia documentary," says Proof. "In this movie, he talked about never doing the same show twice. I did that to D12 sets overseas. Plus, he didn't care about record sales — he just wanted to make fans happy."
2008 - Bernie Mac Dies
It's been ten years since we lost comedian Bernie Mac. The Original King of Comedy died at the age of 50 of pneumonia, and complications of sarcoidosis. Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough in Chicago, Ill., he started his career as a stand-up comedian, performing in small comedy clubs of Chicago. Mac was known to say what's on his mind, but we'll never forget his debut performance on Def Comedy Jam, where he went on stage yelling, "I ain't scared of you mothaf***as," telling the audience he "didn't come here for no foolishness." Mac was fearless like that, he didn't care what people thought, and his comedy told the truth.
He said the things most people cringe to say, whether it was about sex, money, kids, he said it all. Being the founding member of the Kings of Comedy tour, it became one of the greatest stand-up comedy films of all time. Mac was featured in several television shows and movies throughout his career, even landing his show The Bernie Mac Show, a fictional version of his life raising his two nieces and nephew. The comedy, which ran from 2001-2006 gave us that fearless comedy and kept us laughing.
Many comedians, including dear friend Steve Harvey, continue to carry on his legacy. At the 25th anniversary of Def Comedy Jam, a memorial clip was played in celebration of his career. Bernie Mac is tremendously missed and remembered for the joy he brought to fans.
2014 - Mike Brown is Killed in Ferguson, MO
Today marks the fourth year since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo. An altercation between Brown and Officer Wilson led to shots being fired inside the vehicle, with a short pursuit and ten more bullets, fatally killing Brown. Several witnesses stated Brown had his hands in the air, while others say they were only in the air for a brief moment. He sustained at least six wounds from the forehead, arm, chest area. In November 2014, a St. Louis County grand jury, made up of nine white people and three black people decided not to indict Officer Wilson in connection with the shooting. The decision not to charge Wilson set off a wave of anger and distrust of the justice system.
Many hip-hop artists and other entertainers took a stand against the injustice. Rapper J.Cole, who released the emotional song "Be Free," marched in Ferguson and spoke about the crime, David Banner appeared on CNN, and so many other entertainers contributed to the Mike Brown Memorial Fund on GoFundMe, which raised nearly $300,00 in two weeks. While this isn't the first incident of injustice, it gained a lot of national attention, and many members of the hip-hop community have shown support in Ferguson.
Later that month T.I. released the song "New National Anthem," which he wrote after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. T.I. told Billboard, "This is not to divide race, color, generation, region. This is not to incite or encourage people to go against the police. This is to bring about change by way of creating awareness of the current status in America in these inner-city areas for our young black men and young black people," he also said songs like his and J.Cole's could serve as a voice those who don't have a platform like famous rappers. It's sad to say, but as a Nation, we have become so desensitized to these injustices, we have to have change."