Kurt Walker probably never had the kind of job where he had to punch a clock or take his lunch to work in a brown paper bag everyday. And he more than likely never stood on line at the unemployment office either. Yet, his music – at least in the first part of his career, was firmly grounded in the blue collar work world of fifteen minute lunch breaks, irate supervisors, low pay and lay offs.
Of all the “firsts” that Kurtis Blow can truly lay claim to(first rapper signed to a major record company, first rapper with a RIAA certified gold record, first rapper turned producer, first rapper on Soul Train and first rapper to make a million bucks) he bears the distinction of being the first and at this point, probably the only, rapper to make songs that paid tribute to that long forgotten shadow of the American silhouette: the hard-working everyday man.
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, politicians used to care about the guy who punched in at 7:30 everyday and punched out at 5:00. He got by on little and managed to eke out an existence on even less. But he’s been tossed to the side like that old worn out sofa that’s been in the living room for far longer than anyone can remember. Discarded. Dismembered. No longer useful. No one targets him as a demographic anymore. He’s been replaced by soccer moms and hockey moms.
There once was a time – when the genre was called Rhythm and Blues, that the music was directly aimed at the blue collar workforce. Men like Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Sam Cooke and ZZ Hill come to mind. They talked about “the boss” and real life every day situations. Nowadays every nigga’s a player or a hustler. And everybody knows that players and hustlers don’t work.
For whatever reason Country music never lost this connection with the everyday man.
The last Rhythm and Blues record that truly captured the sentiment of and related to the ‘hard-hat wearing, cigarette-in-one-hand and gin and tonic in the other’ everyday man was an instrumental by John Handy aptly titled “Hard Work.”
In a culture that celebrates out of control narcissism and unchecked hedonism; songs like “Hard Times”, “Tough”, “The Breaks”, “If I Ruled The World” and “Party Time” would probably not make a dent in corporate controlled radio play lists and would definitely never see the light of day on BET.
But if you listen to those songs closely you’ll hear outlooks that only a man who’s been on the wrong side of words like “opportunity” and “profit sharing” can relate to. This is real adult content.
“You work all year to buy a brand new car,
A CoupDe Ville or a Jaguar,
But you didn’t make enough for a good cigar
Cause it’s tough!”
TOUGH: It’s a way of life, lost your job,
Your money but not your wife.
ROUGH: Getting in the black
Uncle Sam’s in your pocket,
And your woman’s on your back.
HARD: That’s the deal,
Had to get a loan
Just to buy a meal
TOUGH: That’s how it goes when it’s getting better nobody knows!
TOUGH: That’s the word,
Unemployment is all I heard.
ROUGH: When you start your day,
Watching the finance man tow your car away.
HARD: To hold a job,
When your being replaced by a little blue knob.
TOUGH: Like a dollar steak
Ain’t someone ever gonna give me a break!