A quick recap of Mantronix albums we’ve covered so far — the self-titled debut from 1985, “In Full Effect” from 1988, and their second-to-last LP “This Should Move Ya” from 1990. The review scores have been steadily declining as they progressed toward the 90’s, and (spoiler alert) things aren’t getting better with “The Incredible Sound Machine” from 1991. If the name reminds you of Miami Sound Machine that’s understandable, but before long you’ll wish Gloria Estefan was here instead. Kurtis Mantronik used to be a pioneer of electronic hip-hop music, but by this album has devolved into making generic dance music like “Gimme Something.”
This is like a bad parody of Bel Biv DeVoe and new jack swing, with the song’s only saving grace being the soulful Angie Stone. She tries by the sheer force of her voice to push the song into En Vogue territory, but thanks to the incredible generic sound of the song, she’s never gonna get it never ever gonna get it. If banal 1990’s R&B and house music wasn’t insulting enough, Mantronix is so creatively bankrupt they included “Step to Me (Do Me)” on the album TWICE. A four minute long version opens the album, and an “extended mix” almost 90 seconds longer returns over halfway through. Kurtis must have really thought this song would sell the LP.
Bryce Wilson, one half of R&B duo Groove Theory, was the latest and not the greatest emcee to join the Mantronix collective. I can give him credit for trying to drag Kurtis back toward hip-hop kicking and screaming with the raps on songs like “Operation Mindcrime.” “You better quit or put the bullshit on layaway.” Did this album come with a parental advisory? I wouldn’t have bothered for that one explicit epithet, but it’s as close to the attitude of early 90’s rap as you’re going to get.
There’s no nice way to say this is a pathetic Mantronix album. I used to count on Kurtis Mantronik to deliver pounding beats and sterling sounds. At the start of things he was a force to be reckoned with, forcing other rap artists to update their style and production techniques to keep up. He was a true pioneer. “The Incredible Sound Machine” shows the roles have been completely reversed. Mantronik is no longer an innovator in any way. He’s copying the commercial sound of urban radio in a blatant to get back to the success he once enjoyed. It didn’t work. The album made a minor blip on the charts in Britain and never hit Billboard in the United States. Faced with disappointing album sales and a lukewarm critical reception, Mantronix permanently disbanded as a group. That was for the best.