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Group Members: Kurtis Mantronik
All Music Guide:
Over and above their standing as one of the best and most innovative groups from hip-hop's golden age, Mantronix provided rap music with its first man-machine, Kurtis Mantronik. A turntable master who incorporated synthesizers and samplers into the rhythmatic mix instead of succumbing to the popular use of samples simply as pop hooks, Mantronik exploited technology with a quintessentially old-school attitude which had little use for instruction manuals and accepted use. After the hip-hop world began to catch up with Mantronik's developments, he moved from hardcore rap to skirt the leading edge of club music, from electro to ragga, techno, and house. And though he never found a rapper worthy of his immense production talents, Mantronik inspired dozens of DJs and beatmeisters around the world during the next decade -- in hip-hop, mainstream dance music, and the new electronica -- even while his records were practically impossible to find (many snapped up, no doubt, by those same aspiring DJs).
Mantronik was born Kurtis Khaleel in Jamaica, though his family soon moved to Canada and ended up in New York by the late '70s. Mantronik soon began DJing around the city and was working behind the decks at Manhattan's Downtown Records when he met MC Tee (born Touré Embden). After the duo had assembled a demo tape, they gave it to William Socolov, president of Sleeping Bag Records. He signed Mantronix soon after hearing it, and released their debut single, "Fresh Is the Word." The track lit up New York's streets and clubs during 1985, and brought the full-length Mantronix: The Album early the following year. Two new singles, "Ladies" and "Basslines," became big street hits as well and even crossed over to join the first wave of hip-hop chartmakers in Britain.
By that time, Mantronik had also begun working on A&R at Sleeping Bag, where he signed EPMD, produced KRS-One's first credit ("Success Is the Word" by 12:41), and helmed other intense tracks by Tricky Tee, Just-Ice, and T la Rock. The second Mantronix LP, Music Madness, continued to keep the duo fresh in the clubs. The increasing popularity of hip-hop gave Mantronix a chance at a major-label contract, and by 1987 the duo had signed with Capitol. In Full Effect emerged the following year, and portrayed Mantronik jettisoning many his more hardcore inclinations in favor of a fusion of dance and R&B, an early precursor to hip-house. The production excursion "Do You Like...Mantronik?" proved that Mantronik's ear for clever beats remained, however. And Mantronix's success in England prompted several of the first sampladelic hits, like "Pump Up the Volume" by M/A/R/R/S and "Theme from S'Express" by S'Express.
Soon after In Full Effect, MC Tee left to join the Air Force. Mantronik replaced him with Bryce Luvah (the cousin of LL Cool J) and DJ Dee (Mantronik's own cousin). With 1990's This Should Move Ya, Mantronik made the move from hip-hop into more straight-ahead house. With vocalist Wondress in tow, a pair of Mantronix singles stormed the British Top 20, including the Top Five "Got to Have Your Love." He still used the rappers, but continued to work in dance with 1991's The Incredible Sound Machine. As a group entity, Mantronix disappeared at that point. Mantronik began producing other acts -- mostly female vocalists or freestyle acts -- and later exited music altogether. He returned in the mid-'90s as a breakbeat elder statesman, recording as Kurtis Mantronik and providing remixes for EPMD, Future Sound of London, and Doctor Octagon. A Mantronix respective and several album reissues began filtering out in 1999, and Mantronik began recording a new group album later that year.
Wikipedia: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:
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.
Music Madness 
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":
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.
Shortly after a European tour and promotion related to the release of The Incredible Sound Machine, the group disbanded, and Mantronik left the music industry altogether for seven years.
Kurtis Mantronik resurfaced in Europe in the late 1990s, producing house- and techno-music artists, and remains active in pop-oriented electronic music.