Born Mohandas Dewese in 1963, Dee was an early hit at local block parties, performing with high-school buddies L.A. Sunshine and Special K
plus DJ Easy Lee as Treacherous Three. Introduced to longtime producer Bobby Robinson (Gladys Knight
, the Orioles
) by Spoonie Gee
, Treacherous Three debuted on wax in 1980 with "The New Rap Language," released on Robinson's Enjoy Records. "Body Rock" and "Feel the Heartbeat" followed during 1980-1981 before Robinson sold the group's contract to Sugar Hill Records. Treacherous Three recorded several singles for Sugar Hill, but broke up by the mid-'80s.
Instead of climbing aboard the solo wagon after the breakup, Kool Moe Dee enrolled in college. After earning a communications degree from SUNY, he enlisted an unknown producer for his solo debut, "Go See the Doctor." The 17-year-old Teddy Riley more than vindicated himself, though, and the single became an underground hit. By 1986, Kool Moe Dee was signed to Jive Records, and his self-titled debut album appeared that same year.
With 1987's How Ya Like Me Now, Dee struck back at the brash young generation who had forsaken their forebears; the cover featured a red Kangol hat -- the prominent trademark of LL Cool J
-- being crushed by the wheel of a Jeep. The album went platinum and was followed two years later by the gold-certified Knowledge Is King, for which Dee became the first rapper to perform at the Grammy Awards ceremonies. Also in 1989, Dee worked on two important projects: the single "Self-Destruction," recorded in conjunction with KRS-One's Stop the Violence Movement; and Quincy Jones' all-star Back on the Block LP, which united hip-hop stars with their musical forebears.
Kool Moe Dee's fourth album, Funke Funke Wisdom was a bit of a disappointment when compared to his earlier successes, and Jive/RCA dropped him after releasing his Greatest Hits package in 1993. Hardly washed up, though, Dee recorded a Treacherous 3 reunion album in 1993 and signed to DJ Easy Lee's label for the 1994 album Interlude. The title wasn't quite prophetic, however, it being his last album. ~ John Bush, Rovi