Kurtis Mantronik Is Still Making Beats

Kurtis el Khaleel, better known as legendary producer Kurtis Mantronik, is living in London, still working on music using software. He talks about being heavily influenced early on by Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. via Remixmag

“I thought I was doing wicked-mean hip-hop that everybody could understand and relate to,” Khaleel, aka Mantronik, says from his London apartment. “I was trying to push the envelope a little bit. I was doing my interpretation of the hip-hop of the time. But most people hear ‘Fresh Is the Word’ and don’t think of Grandmaster Flash or early hip-hop; to them it comes across as being slightly different. I thought I was doing hip-hop, but it didn’t come across that way.”

Exhaustion and a dearth of hits in the ’90s eventually drove Mantronik out of the business. He married and relocated to London, where he remains. His career returned to prominence, however, with I Sing the Body Electro (Oxygen Music Works, 1998) with female rapper Traylude, which was a critical success. Chart-topping UK success continued with Joyce Simms’ “(You Are My) All and All” (Warlock, 1999), Kurtis Mantronik presents Chamonix “77 Strings” (Southern Fried, 2002) and the tracks “Promises” and “Obsession,” which he wrote and produced for Kylie Minogue’s Body Language (Capitol, 2004).

Currently working in Apple Logic Pro 8 on a MacBook Pro, using Native Instruments Pro-53, LinPlug Albino, U-he.com Zebra 2.2, Logic’s EXS24 sampler for beats and Genelec 8040As, Mantronik is oddly reserved when discussing a possible comeback album.

I feel I am letting people down if I don’t come out with something fresh and completely different,” he admits. “So I hold back as opposed to releasing everything.

The early Mantronix was magic. I was a young kid who was just excited and loved music and no one was judging me. My label believed in me no matter what I did. That happened in the ’70s, too; bands could do what they wanted to do and they made great music.