Today's history includes the birth one the biggest stars in music, the death a king comedy, a breakout single the notorious one from Brooklyn and much more.
1959 – Kurtis Blow is Born
Kurtis Blow, one 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 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 Russell Simmons and the early days 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 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 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 hip-hop, with hits from Nas’ “If I Ruled the World,” The Fugees' “Ready or Not” and Next’s longest-running No. 1 song 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 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 the greatest voices all time was born on this day in 1963. Houston was no stranger to the music industry, being the daughter famed gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick, and goddaughter 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 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 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 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 all time, selling over 45 million copies worldwide due to the success Whitney's cover Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." The single spent 14 weeks at No. 1 and won the Grammy Award for Record 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 The Bodyguard, Houston married who she called the "King 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 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 all time- you are my angel and I will always love you."
Grief struck the world On February 11, 2012, when the world heard her tragic death at just 48 years old. The news her death evoked a flood 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 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 the members Westside Connection, but before the gangsta rap supergroup, he was a member another group, Low Prile 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 ficially 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 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 a Madman," "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" and "1-800 Suicide." The album was well received is considered one the most influential hip-hop albums 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 the greatest hip-hop records all time. In a Rolling Stone article, it listed at No. 8 greatest songs 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" f 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 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 – Pro is Searching for Jerry Garcia
On this day, Detroit rapper Pro D12 dropped his second and final album Searching for Jerry Garcia. Tragically, Pro was shot and killed in a local Detroit club in 2006. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Pro 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 Pro. "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 Comedy died at the age 50 pneumonia, and complications sarcoidosis. Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough in Chicago, Ill., he started his career as a stand-up comedian, performing in small comedy clubs 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 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 the Kings Comedy tour, it became one the greatest stand-up comedy films 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 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 Def Comedy Jam, a memorial clip was played in celebration 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 18-year-old Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police ficer, 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 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 f a wave anger and distrust 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 injustice, it gained a lot national attention, and many members 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 George Zimmerman in the killing 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 creating awareness 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."