Kurtis Mantronik’s crucial role in the electronic revolution which transformed hip-hop in the 80s took the music to another level, as this two-disc collection of his earliest and freshest productions attests. Fronted by MC Tee, Mantronik took the beatbox which appeared earlier in the decade but, instead of building tracks on sample-derived hooks, constructed booming backdrops from synthesised basslines, Fairlight stabs and sci-fi melodies, betraying more influence from YMO than JB.
Signed to the Sleeping Bag imprint launched in 1981 by Will Socolov and avant-disco legend Arthur Russell, the duo’s debut, Fresh Is The Word, laid a new template for electro-related beats, while MC Tee’s rhymes still echoed the old school. It was quickly followed by further hits including the robo-voiced Needle To The Groove, Bassline and Mantronix: The Album, before the following year’s Music Madness set. For a brief period, this was the new style, before being swiftly refined into the mainstream (which Kurtis himself joined when he then signed to Capitol).
Disc Two presents further Golden Age time capsules: Mantronik’s productions for Just Ice (Cold Getting’ Dumb), T La Rock (Breaking Bells) and Tricky Tee (Johnny The Fox), whom he signed as part of his Sleeping Bag A&R post.