Mantronix, one of the most innovative hip-hop acts of all time, was founded by Kurtis el Khaleel, who was born in Jamaica, though his family soon moved to Canada and ended up in New York by the late 1970s. During high school, Khaleel wanted to be in a band but couldn't find anyone who wanted to be in a band with him, so he bought a Roland TR-606 drum machine and a Roland TB-303 bass machine, and mastered them quickly. Taking the stage name Mantronik (although some sources claim he was born with that name), he soon began DJing around the city and was working behind the decks at Manhattan's Downtown Records when he met Haitian-born MC Tee, (Touré Embden). After the duo had assembled a demo tape, they gave it to William Socolov, president of Sleeping Bag Records. He signed Mantronix soon after hearing it, and released its debut single, "Fresh is the Word." The track lit up New York's streets and clubs during 1985.
In 1986, Mantronix's debut full-length The Album was released. Two new singles, "Needle to the Groove" and "Bassline," became big street hits in New York and, amazingly, even crossed over to join the first wave of hip-hop chart-makers in Britain. By that time, Mantronik had also begun working as an A&R representative at Sleeping Bag, where he signed EPMD, produced KRS-One's first credit ("Success Is the Word" by 12:41), and helmed other intense tracks by Tricky Tee, Just-Ice, and T La Rock.
The second Mantronix LP, Music Madness, continued to keep the duo fresh in the clubs. The increasing popularity of hip-hop gave Mantronix a chance at a major-label contract, and by 1987, the duo signed with Capitol/EMI, which created a legal battle between Sleeping Bag and the group—their old label claimed that they were owed two more albums.
In Full Effect was released in 1988, and it portrayed Mantronik jettisoning many his more hardcore inclinations in favor of a fusion of dance and R&B. The production excursion "Do You Like...Mantronik?" proved that Mantronik's ear for clever beats remained, however, and Mantronix's success in Britain prompted several of the first sampladelic hits, such "Pump up the Volume" by M/A/R/R/S and "Theme from S'Express" by S'Express.
Soon after its third album, MC Tee left to join the Air Force. Mantronik replaced him with Bryce Luvah (a cousin of LL Cool J) and DJ Dee (Mantronik's own cousin). With 1990's This Should Move Ya, Mantronik made the move from hip-hop into more straight-ahead dance music. With vocalist Wondress in tow, a pair of Mantronix singles stormed the British Top 20, including the top-five "Got to Have Your Love." Mantronik still used the MCs, he but continued to work in dance music with the group's last album, 1991's The Incredible Sound Machine. As a group entity, Mantronix disappeared at that point. Mantronik began producing other acts—mostly female vocalists or latin freestyle acts—and later exited music altogether, getting married and raising a family, eventually having a son nicknamed Boytronik.
Mantronik returned in the mid-1990s as a breakbeat elder statesman, recording as Kurtis Mantronik and providing remixes for EPMD, the Future Sound of London, and Violet. A Mantronix respective and several album reissues began filtering out in 1999, and Mantronik began recording a new solo album later that year.