Ford Jr. was responsible for hip-hop artist Kurtis Blow’s hit songs “Christmas Rappin'” and “The Breaks.”
Robert Ford Jr., legendary hip-hop producer died on Wednesday, May 20, according to Russell Simmons, his longtime friend, and mentee.
A notable achievement of the late producer was that he’s heralded as the first writer to pen a story on hip-hop in a music trade publication, Billboard. Simmons shares this fact in an extensive Instagram post honoring Ford Jr. In a previous blog post, his son shares the story titled “B-Beats Bombarding Bronx” is in fact acknowledged as the first time rap was mentioned in print and added it was published in 1978.
Ford Jr. left his role at Billboard to produce Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’” (1979) alongside his previous Billboard colleague, writer J.B. Moore. HipHopDX reports following the release of the track, it went gold and Blow went on to become the first rapper to sign with a major label (Mercury Records). In 1980 “The Breaks” by Curtis Blow was released which Ford Jr. co-produced and wrote. Arguably the first hip-hop song “The Breaks” also featured production credited to Blow, Moore and Larry Smith.
In a statement released to HipHopDX, Simmons shared:
“I was thrilled to sit by his feet and do whatever he recommended. He gave me a book (this business of music) and he allowed me to give a party for Kool and the Gang and their manager Bumby who inspired me. After ‘Christmas Rappin’,” I began managing Kurtis Blow. Robert told me that I should be careful and honest — not charge too much, 10 percent — and learn everything in sight. He said by being honest, I would have my relationships forever. He was right.”
On his lessons from Ford Jr., Simmons said, “In a world where ripping off artists or overreaching on deals was commonplace, he stressed the importance of making your partner or artist is successful and having deals that when they look back they know you were fair.”
During his extensive career in the music industry, Robert Ford Jr. would go on to work at Simmons’ Def Jam Recordings. There he worked with Run D.M.C., Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and The Beastie Boys.
No cause of death has been confirmed, Simmons shared that Robert Ford Jr. suffered from diabetes. He was roughly 70 years old.
Take a look at Russell Simmons’ tribute below.
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My mentor Robert ford (far right) passed yesterday. When I met him he worked at billboard magazine. He lived in queens and one day in spring of 1978 he was given a Rush Production flyer for DJ Hollywood and Kurtis Blow show by a 13 year old Joseph Simmons. He contacted me and wrote the first music trade story on rappers and how they was a hood phenomenon. He even put me in the story as The promoter (that was the first time I ever saw my name anywhere in the media). He believed in hip hop and me. Within a short time he was my guru. I was thrilled to sit by his feet and do whatever he recommended. He gave me a book (This Business of Music) and he enabled me to give a party for Kool and the Gang and their manager Bumby, who inspired me. I knew right then i wanted to be a manager. Next thing Robert and JB Moore (another billboard exec) produced my main artist and great friend @kurtisblow Christmas Rapping. I began “managing” Kurtis blow He told me that i should be careful and honest (not charge too much 10% ) and learn everything in site he said by being honest i would have my relationships forever He was right. In a world where ripping off artists or overreaching on deals was commonplace he stressed the importance of making your partner or artist successful and having deals that when they look back they know you were fair. Around that time 12 inch records were the thing ..disco was hot ..Christmas rapping became the 2nd biggest 12 inch in the history of major labels , only the second 12 inch to be certified gold Behind Donna summer and Barbara Streisand’s “no more tears” Robert taught me to brand.. he put Kurtis’s blows image on the sleeve of the record “the breaks “ and he named him “ the king of rap “ He then taught me to produce and he built a label “street level records” where he put out the records i produced Action by Orange Krush the vocals by the great Allyson williams And Bubble Bunch by the late jimmy spicer .:these experiences shaped me and i will always cherish them Farewell my lifelong friend and mentor Robert Ford junior See u again when we are young and vibrant again Love Always