|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
New jack swing
|Labels||Sleeping Bag Records
Virgin/EMI Records (Europe)
|Past members||Kurtis Mantronik (1984-1991)
MC Tee (1984-1988)
Bryce "Luvah" Wilson (1990-1991)
D.J. D (1990)
Jade Trini (1991)
Two turntables and a microphone
- For the game, see Mantronix (video game)
Mantronix was an influential 1980s hip hop and electro funk music group founded by DJ Kurtis Mantronik (Kurtis el Khaleel), and rapper MC Tee (Touré Embden). Mantronix underwent several genre (and line-up) changes during its 7-year existence (1984–1991), from old school hip hop and electro-funk to house music, but the group is primarily remembered for its original, heavily synthesized blend of old school hip-hop and electro funk.
Early years: 1984–1988
Kurtis Mantronik (Kurtis el Khaleel), a Jamaican-Canadian émigré, began experimenting with electro music in the early 1980s, inspired by early electro tracks like "Riot in Lagos" (1980) by Yellow Magic Orchestra's Ryuichi Sakamoto. In 1984, while working as the in-store DJ for Downtown Records in Manhattan, Kurtis Mantronik met MC Tee, a Haitian-born, Flatbush, Brooklyn-based rapper (and regular record store customer). The duo soon made a demo, "Fresh Is The Word," and eventually signed with William Socolov's Sleeping Bag Records.
Mantronix: the Album
Mantronix's debut single, "Fresh Is the Word," was a club hit in 1985, reaching #16 on Billboard Magazine's Hot Dance Singles Sales chart, and was featured on Mantronix: The Album which was released the same year.
Mantronix's efforts on Mantronix: the Album and its effect on early hip hop and electronic music is perhaps best summed up by music critic Omar Willey's observation in 2000:
|“||Featuring "Fresh Is the Word" and the new tracks "Bassline" and "Electro Mega-Mix," Mantronix defined the new sound of electro-funk. Mantronik used a polyrhythmic style, similar to West African log drumming, but instead of acoustic drums, the rhythm would be carried by the combination of electronic drums, synthesizer, vocoder and/or synthesized voice over a bass line completely played on the synth. No samples of James Brown here. This was truly electronic music: spare, funky and immensely danceable, an homage and simultaneous extension of old-school hip hop's electronic template that had started with "Planet Rock" in 1982. The feeling of Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Kraftwerk and Neu all combined in Mantronik's music. It was a neat tie between old-school and new jack, and Mantronix had the field to themselves.||”|
The influence of Mantronix: The Album is seen among other artists through the sampling of "Needle To The Groove" by Beck in the single "Where It's At" from the 1996 album, Odelay ("we've got two turntables and a microphone..."), as well as, "Fresh Is The Word" by the Beastie Boys in the single "Jimmy James" from the 1992 album, Check Your Head ("for all the Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and the White people too...") The Beastie Boys later sampled "Bassline" for the song "3 the Hard Way" on their 2004 album To the 5 Boroughs.
Mantronix's second album, Music Madness, was released in 1986. While MC Tee's rhyming style on the album continued in the traditional b-boy fashion of the times, Mantronik's club-oriented production and mixing in Music Madness tended to attract more electronic dance music and electro funk aficionados than hardcore hip-hop fans. During this period, while Mantronix was signed to Sleeping Bag Records, Mantronik was employed by the label in their A&R Department, while also producing other artists and groups, including Just-Ice, T La Rock, Nocera, and Joyce Sims.
In Full Effect
Mantronix signed with Capitol Records in 1987, in what was one of the first 7-figure deals for a hip-hop group, and released In Full Effect in 1988, which, according to the liner notes, was the first album to be mastered from DAT instead of reel-to-reel tape. The album continued in and expanded on the hip-hop/electro funk/dance music vein of its predecessor, eventually reaching #18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, Mantronix's highest showing for an album. In Full Effect marked the last Mantronix album with rapper MC Tee, who left the group to enlist in the United States Air Force.
Later era: 1989–1991
This Should Move Ya
Following the departure of MC Tee, rapper Bryce "Luvah" Wilson and Mantronik's cousin D.J. D joined Mantronix for 1989s This Should Move Ya. Mantronik met Wilson, a fellow Sleeping Bag Records label mate, while doing production for Wilson's aborted solo project.
The album spawned two top-10 hits on the British singles chart, "Got To Have Your Love" at #4, and "Take Your Time (featuring vocalist Wondress)" at #10. In the United States, the album reached #61 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
In a 1991 interview, Kurtis Mantronik commented on the commercial success of "Got to Have Your Love":
|“||When I did "Got To Have Your Love", I did it for a reason. I did it because I wanted to get a song on the radio.||”|
The Incredible Sound Machine
Mantronix's final release, with vocalist Jade Trini replacing D.J. D, was The Incredible Sound Machine in 1991. Grammy-nominated neo soul singer/songwriter Angie Stone co-wrote seven of the eleven tracks that appeared on The Incredible Sound Machine. The Incredible Sound Machine, which tended to favor R&B, new jack swing, and dance music over hip hop, was considered both a critical and commercial disappointment.
|Mantronix: The Album
|In Full Effect
|This Should Move Ya|
|The Incredible Sound Machine
|The Best of Mantronix (1986-1988)|
|The Best of Mantronix 1985-1999
|That's My Beat
|Remixed & Rare
|The Ultra Selection
- "When Recorded Hip-hop was in its Infancy, One Man was Responsible for Really Pushing the Sonic Envelope. It's Been Far from Plain Sailing Since, But the Mantronix Legacy will Run Forever". cheebadesign.com (original article printed in Hip Hop Connection Magazine). July 2002. Retrieved 2006-10-17.
- Chin, Brian (1986). "Mantronix Makes Inroads In British Pop - But Black Duo Still Waiting For A U.S. Hit". cheebadesign.com (original article printed in Billboard Magazine). Retrieved 2006-11-16.
- Willey, Omar. "Do You Like...Mantronix?". cheebadesign.com. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
- Henderson, Alex. "Allmusic Music Madness Review". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2006-10-18.
- Wynn, Ron. "Allmusic In Full Effect Review". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2006-10-18.
- Jones, Phillip. "Messin' With Mantronix". cheebadesign.com. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
- Wynn, Ron. "Allmusic This Should Move Ya Review". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2006-10-18.
- Henderson, Alex. "Allmusic The Incredible Sound Machine Review". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2006-10-18.