Initially, Mantronix was a 1980s hip hop and electro group comprised of DJ Kurtis Mantronik and rapper MC Tee. After a line-up change, they became a popular house and pop-dance act.
Kurtis el Khaleel was born in Jamaica on September 4th, 1965 to a Syrian father and a Jamaican mother. The family immigrated to Canada when he was seven. In 1980, the family moved to New York City. Whilst attending high school, el Khaleel unsuccessfully tried to form and band before buying a Roland TR-606 and a Roland TB-303 and dubbing himself Kurtis Mantronik. After experimenting with them, in 1984, while working as the in-store DJ for Downtown Records in Manhattan, el Khaleel met MC Tee, a Haitian-born, Flatbush, Brooklyn-based rapper and regular customer. The duo recorded their first song, a demo of, “Fresh Is the Word,” and eventually signed with William Socolov’s Sleeping Bag Records. Upon its official release, it became a hit in clubs.
Mantronix – The Album (1985 Sleeping Bag Records) was an amazing showcase for Mantronik’s polyrhythmic, heavily synthesized version of hip-hop and MC Tee’s rapping. The follow-up, Music Madness (1986 Sleeping Bag Records), saw the duo moving in an increasingly dancey direction. While signed to Sleeping Bag, Mantronik also produced other artists including Just-Ice, T La Rock, Nocera, and Joyce Sims.
In 1987, Sleeping bag claimed they were owed two more albums by the group, which signed to Capitol after some legal wrangling. In Full Effect (1988 Capitol/EMI) was the first album to be mastered from DAT instead of reel-to-reel tape and was the duo’s biggest commercial success. However, after its release, MC Tee quit the music business and enlisted in the United States Air Force.
Mantronik met Bryce Wilson, a fellow Sleeping Bag Records label mate, while doing production for Wilson’s solo project in 1989. After the project was shelved, Mantronik formed new line-up of Mantronix with Bryce Wilson and Mantronik’s cousin, DJ D. The new line-up issued This Should Move Ya (1990 Capitol/EMI) a full-fledged house album whose singles “Got to Have Your Love” and “Take Your Time” (featuring vocalist Wondress) peeked at numbers four and ten in the UK.
For The Incredible Sound Machine (1991 Capitol/EMI), Jade Trini replaced DJ D and seven of the eleven tracks were co-written by Angie Stone. Its unabashed mix of commercial R&B, dance-pop and New Jack Swing resulted in the group’s first critical and commercial disappointment and after a European tour they disbanded. Afterward, Mantronik dropped out of the music scene for the better part of a decade, resurfacing the the UK, where he intermittently produced house and techno acts. After Jade Trini found God, she settled into Connecticut. Wilson formed Groove Theory and got into production. MC Tee reportedly lives somewhere in Georgia.