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KOOL MOE DEE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Kool Moe Dee (Rooftop/Jive) 1986
How Ya Like Me Now (Rooftop/Jive) 1987
Knowledge Is King (Jive/RCA) 1989
African Pride EP (Jive) 1990
Funke, Funke Wisdom (Jive) 1991
The Greatest Hits (Sugar Hill) 1991

Using a stone-cold serious tone that does not encourage disagreement, pioneering New York rapper Kool Moe Dee (Mohandas Dewese), a former third of the Treacherous Three, puts his positive social messages plus the usual braggadocio to medium-weight rhythm tracks, many of them enhanced by loping synth-bass lines, electronic horns and other musical ingredients. The versatile vocalist's records earn their mainstream appeal by tempering the music and taking a firm stand against violence and sexual irresponsibility.

The first album's "Go See the Doctor" offers a slangy but detailed warning about venereal disease; "Little Jon" characterizes a young hoodlum as a loser not a hero; "Monster Crack" warns kids against messing with drugs.

How Ya Like Me Now (the cover of which shows a red Kangol crushed under the wheels of a jeep, illustrating KMD's antagonism toward upstart LL Cool J) experiments with one-chord funk vamps instead of mere beats, and quotes James Brown, Paul Simon and others. But the raps aren't as captivating as before, and the cuts tend to drag. "No Respect," recited to an adaptation of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," tells a powerful cautionary tale of a street hustler's downfall and joins the self-serving title tune as a highlight.

Back in control with another masterful blend of uplifting rhymes, inventive music and no-nonsense delivery, Moe Dee pushes his don't-steal-it/earn-it philosophy in the appealing Knowledge Is King, announcing "I Go to Work" over a dramatic brassy film noir track, defending his bachelorhood in "They Want Money," prizing intelligent women in "All Night Long" and promoting education in the title track. "Pump Your Fist" wraps up the album in a wide-ranging discussion of racism, history and contemporary urban life.

The so-called greatest hits collection is a shoddy cash-in package that offers a taste of the Treacherous Three with five carefree selections typical of the early days of old school ("Body Rock," "At the Party") and a half-dozen KMD tracks (three of which are also on his first album) of unexplained provenance.

[Ira Robbins]