FOR A GUY who claims that America is "my favorite country" because it's the "home of democracy," Kurtis Blow has a thing for being king.

That's the premise of "If I Ruled the World," his current single, and the boast behind his claim of rap supremacy, "Respect to the King." But if Blow is a bit mixed up in his civics, he sure knows how to handle a beat. From the modified go-go grove of "If I Ruled The World" to the slippery mixing that fuels "AJ Is Cool" the rhythm beds on "America," his latest album, are as imaginative as they are efficient.

In fact, it's only when Blow turns away from the rhythm that "America" falters. Although Blow has a passable singing voice, it's often undercut by his limitations as a songwriter; he may be good for a chorus or two, but somehow he never manages the momentum to keep the verses going.

Perhaps he'd have been better off taking the tack M.C. Ricky D employs on the Doug E. Fresh 12-inch single "The Show" and "La-Di- Da-Di." For the most part, Ricky D raps, but occasionally he'll continue his story by breaking into a snippet of song which, thanks to his hammy delivery, presents a better depiction of character than any rhyme could.

Add in Doug E. Fresh's human beat-box effects and some imaginative interplay from the rest of the get-fresh crew, and it's no wonder this is currently the most imitated single on the hip-hop scene.