Curtis "Mantronik" Khaleel
was often quoted as saying that his mission was to "take rap a step beyond the streets," and the innovative producer/mixmaster accomplished that goal on Mantronix
's debut album, Mantronix: The Album
. This excellent 1985 LP was way ahead of its time; while the rapping of Mantronix
's partner MC Tee
is pure mid-'80s New York hip-hop, the production is anything but conventional. On gems like "Needle to the Groove," "Bassline," and the hit "Fresh Is the Word," you can hear the parallels between Tee
's rhyming and the East Coast b-boy rhymes that Run-D.M.C.
, LL Cool J
, and the Fat Boys
were providing in 1985. But the album's high-tech, futuristic production sets it apart from other New York hip-hop of the mid-'80s, and even though one of the LP's tracks is titled "Hardcore Hip-Hop," Mantronix
had a hard time appealing to hip-hop's hardcore. Mantronix: The Album
actually fared better in dance music, electro-funk, and club circles than it did among hardcore b-boys. But this is definitely a hip-hop record, and it is also Mantronix
's most essential release.