Kool Moe Dee is an American hip hop artist and one of the pioneers of old school hip hop. He rose to fame in the 1980s as a member of the influential hip hop group The Treacherous Three. Kool Moe Dee later went on to have a successful solo career and has been cited as one of the most skilled and influential MCs of all time.
Background and Early Life
Kool Moe Dee was born Mohandas Dewese on August 8, 1962 in Harlem, New York. From an early age, he developed an interest in music, especially hip hop which was just emerging as a new genre at the time. In the late 1970s, Kool Moe Dee co-founded the hip hop group The Treacherous Three alongside DJ Easy Lee and LA Sunshine. The group became well known for their fast-paced rhyming and socially conscious lyrics.
Career Beginnings with The Treacherous Three
The Treacherous Three released their debut single “The New Rap Language” in 1980, one of the earliest old school hip hop records. They went on to release several more singles throughout the early 1980s including “Feel the Heart Beat” and “Action”. Their lyrics often focused on partying and having fun, though they mixed in socially relevant themes as well. The Treacherous Three are considered pioneers in using multi-syllabic rhyming rather than just rhyming the end words.
In 1981, Kool Moe Dee became the first rapper to win the longest-running rap battle contest at the time at Harlem World in New York by defeating Busy Bee Starski. This added to his reputation as an elite battle rapper. The Treacherous Three disbanded in 1983.
Successful Solo Career and Rivalry with LL Cool J
After The Treacherous Three split, Kool Moe Dee embarked on a solo career. In 1986, he released a self-titled solo album which was certified platinum. His hit single “Go See the Doctor” from the album was one of the earliest socially conscious rap songs addressing issues like drug use.
In 1987, Kool Moe Dee began a legendary rivalry with fellow hip hop artist LL Cool J, claiming that he was superior. The rivalry culminated in the battle rap songs “How Ya Like Me Now” by Kool Moe Dee and “Jack the Ripper” by LL Cool J. Though controversial at the time, the rivalry brought more visibility to hip hop battles and displayed the technical rhyming skills of both MCs.
Throughout the late 1980s and into the 90s, Kool Moe Dee continued releasing successful albums including How Ya Like Me Now which went double platinum. He had several more top 40 singles including “Wild Wild West” and “I Go To Work”. His fast rapping flow and lyrical technique influenced many future rappers.
Later Career and Legacy
In the late 1990s, Kool Moe Dee shifted his focus to acting. He appeared in films such as The Goat and On the Shoulders of Giants. In 2003, he released an album called The Greatest Hits which contained re-recordings of his classic hits.
Kool Moe Dee took up residence in New York where he spent his time hosting events, judging rap contests, and working to keep hip hop culture thriving in the city. His legacy as a hip hop pioneer has been recognized through various honors and awards. In 2007, he was the first rapper to be awarded the Black Belt of Knowledge award from Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do group.
Over his long and influential career, Kool Moe Dee has been described by music critics as one of the most skillful MCs ever with his quick rapping delivery and rhyme schemes. He has been praised for expanding the lyrical and technical boundaries of rap. Through his music and rivalry with LL Cool J, he contributed to bringing more complexity and visibility to MC battling. Kool Moe Dee remains one of the iconic figures in old school hip hop.
Net Worth and Earnings
Kool Moe Dee accumulated significant wealth at the height of his fame as both a solo artist and member of The Treacherous Three. His platinum-selling albums and charting singles generated large earnings in the late 80s and early 90s. Though his music career has slowed, he continues to earn income through hosting events and appearances.
As of 2023, Kool Moe Dee’s estimated net worth is believed to be around $10 million. The vast majority of his wealth can be attributed to sales from his multi-platinum albums and singles over his decades long career. Despite a relatively quiet period in recent years, Kool Moe Dee stands as one of the most financially successful old school hip hop artists.
Personal Life and Other Pursuits
Kool Moe Dee leads a relatively private personal life outside of his music career. He was born and raised in Harlem by a preacher father and has remained devoted to the neighborhood where hip hop emerged.
Outside of music, he earned a degree in communications from the State University of New York and has served as a guest lecturer at Harvard University. He has an interest in writing and published a book in 2003 called There’s A God On The Mic: The True 50 Greatest MCs.
Kool Moe Dee has also been involved in various youth outreach and social initiatives over the years. He takes pride in his home community and in being a positive role model. Now in his 60s, the pioneering rapper continues to promote hip hop culture and perform occasionally.
Though he keeps many personal details private, Kool Moe Dee will long be remembered for his game-changing contributions to hip hop as part of The Treacherous Three and through his legendary solo work. He remains one of the most influential figures in the early days of rap music.