Although not as well-known as other New York hip-hop acts of the early ’80s, Staten Island‘s Force M.D.’s were a vital crew in the early history of street hip-hop and one of the first vocal groups to fuse doo wop-influenced harmonies with hip-hop beats. Originally a street troupe known as the LD’s, the group sang and danced on Greenwich Village street corners and the Staten Island ferry. Its members included brothers Stevie D and Antoine “TCD” Lundy, their uncle Jesse Lee Daniels, and friends Trisco Pearson and Charles “Mercury” Nelson. The group hooked up with DJ Dr. Rock, and billing themselves as Dr. Rock and the MC’s, began playing in local hip-hop venues.
However, by the time the group signed to Tommy Boy in 1984 as the Force M.D.’s (M.D. standing for “musical diversity”), they had evolved into a more straightforward R&B vocal group, distinguished mostly by their street attitude. The M.D.’s had a string of R&B hits through the ’80s, but their only pop hit was the Top Ten Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis-penned ballad “Tender Love,” which was featured in the movie Krush Groove. 1987 produced the group’s first R&B number one, “Love Is a House,” but their popular appeal began to ebb the following year. Mercury and Trisco left in 1990 and were replaced by Rodney “Khalil” Lundy and Shawn Waters. The group released the album Get Ready in 1994 as several members worked with other artists as producers. Though Nelson, Lundy, and DJ Dr. Rock each died an early death (Nelson of a heart attack, Lundy of Lou Gehrig’s disease), the group returned in 1998, signed to a contract thanks to fellow Staten Island-natives Wu-Tang Clan.
In this exclusive interview with UrbanBridgez.com, as apart of our anniversary interview series! The Force MD’s talked to Aries about their upcoming documentary, creating the whole Hip-Hop/Soul merge as well as the human beat box, continuing on after their losses and much more! If you’re a fan of Hip-Hop and R&B, this is an interview you don’t want to miss! Educate yourself on the influence and talents of The Force MD’s!
UrbanBridgez.com: Like the Tender Love video, many people don’t know you guys really did start out singing on street corners, stoops and Staten Island Ferry, what are some of you guys most foundest memories of those days?
Steve (Force MD’s): The foundest memory to me is the idea of actually singing on the Staten Island Ferry. We also use to sing on the streets of Times Square and that was a really good experience. But singing on the Staten Island Ferry was great, just being from the hood and we was broke (laughs). We were first called the Fantastic L.D.’s. So being on there and witnessing a guy sing country on the boat and he use to win all the talent shows in our hometown. So we was like let’s do what he’s doing and see if we can make some money. We’re broke right now let’s see if we can make some money (laughs). We got on there and started singing songs by like the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, we would have the crowd in a frenzy. It was all races and creeds, so that was a new experience for us, to really test yourself you know. They really enjoyed it, we was like the hottest act on the Ferry.
UrbanBridgez.com: You guys always had a major Hip-Hop influence in your music, what inspired that?
Steve (Force MD’s): The Hip-Hop influence came from myself and Mercury and we had a DJ named Dr. Rock. We were like one of the first like Staten Island rappers. We had to test ourselves and go all the way up to Harlem, Staten Island has always been the forgotten barrow. First people use to laugh, like they’re from Staten Island. So when they heard us, that was a whole other story. They were like wow, these guys are really good. So that blew up and left a big mark. Me and Mercury and we had a cousin who joined us later. We were the Force MC’s at that time, DJ Rock & The Force MC’s. We left a real big underground following on the Hip-Hop circut.
UrbanBridgez.com: You guys were in the film “Rappin” one of my favorite old school films…
Steve (Force MD’s): (laughs) You should be on Def Comedy Jam (laughs). I’m just kidding. Oh that was an experience right there. Can I feel you in on something real quick.. They asked alot of people to audition for Rappin. We was like we’re gonna be in Rappin, we’re gonna be like it! (laughs) As you can see it was just scraps, we did one of our R&B songs. We performed that and I mean we was sweating and everything to get in this movie. So they were like alright guys you got it! We was so happy, we were telling people yo we’re gonna be in a movie called Rappin. So we’re like who’s in it and they started to tell us. We didn’t know any of them names then (laughs). No offense to Mario Van Peebles or anybody, but we didn’t know it was actors. We thought it was going to be a bunch of real rappers in it. So we did our little part and was like okay (laughs). We’ll take this as something to add to our resume.’ It was fun doing it and we appreciate them giving us that part.
UrbanBridgez.com: Everybody from Erik La Salle, Kadeem Hardison and Mario Van Peebles were just starting out as well.
Steve (Force MD’s): Right and look at them now! Now that is something I do brag about (laughs). I be pointing them out, like look he was in the movie with us, I feel good saying that (laughs). Look at Dwayne Wyane, he was in the movie with us.
UrbanBridgez.com: Your biggest hits have been Tender Love & Love is A House, two R&B classics! That I still wear out! Besides those two, what are some of you guys personal favorite songs that you’ve recorded throughout your career?
Steve (Force MD’s): That’s a real good question. You know one of my favorite Force MD’s songs it wasn’t like a huge hit, but like a top 20 hit, Couldn’t Care Less.
UrbanBridgez.com: Yes! That’s my favorite (laughs).
Steve (Force MD’s): Yeah, yeah (laughs).
Khalil (Force MD’s): I came in the group a little later, or should I say back in the group. So one of mine is one we did for a reunion album called Messing Around.
Jessie: Mines is Forgive Me Girl.
UrbanBridgez.com: I have to say “Touch & Go” is one of my all time favorite albums!!! I remember being a kid, getting that tape and playing it out! Even now I still play it faithfully! I can’t even choose a favorite from it because I love them all, well maybe Couldn’t Care Less or Take Your Love Back. Take me back then & when you guys were in the studio recording that album, some of the best memories you have?
Steve (Force MD’s): We went through that album pretty easily. Tom Silverman & Monica Lynch from Tommy Boy was always pitching songs to us. I do remember the day they pitched us Love is A House. Two dudes from London wrote that song and they had a girl singing on it at first on the demo. And we didn’t like it when we first heard it. So they asked us to listen to it for a whole week and tell us what you think. It grew on us and we recorded it. It was really a nice relaxed atmosphere doing that album. We was on tour with Madonna when that album came out, that’s why Love is A House was #1. We was overseas with Madonna (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: You guys have released music in the 90’s as well as 2000 which stayed true to that Force MD’s 80’s R&B, who were some of your influences coming up?
Jessie: Michael Jackson.
Steve (Force MD’s): Yeah our major influence was the Jackson 5. Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cook & The Manhattans.
Khalil (Force MD’s): Y’all forgot about James Brown and Smokey Robinson. I think Smokey Robinson was more of a major influence on TC.
UrbanBridgez.com: Through the years you guys have lost three of your family/group members, when did you all decide to keep the Force MD’s brand going and what was your motivation?
Jessie (Force MD’s): Really to keep the legacy alive, two members passed away, TC & Mercury. At one point we was slowing down, but we had to keep the legacy alive so we kept going. We’re doing it for ourselves, but we’re also doing it for the brothers who have passed.
Steve (Force MD’s): Like with Khalil he was in the group earlier when we were Fantastic L.D.’s, he just returned back to the group. Most of us are siblings, me, Jessie, Khalil and TC are all siblings. Jessie is our uncle and me, TC & Khalil are brothers. Trisco was a member of the group, he’s on his own right now. But there is a chance he might return to the group as well. So yeah we just kept the legacy alive and we’re pretty much all related. We got the same sound and keep it going by touring & all of the other things we got going on.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell me about the documentary you guys have put together?
Khalil (Force MD’s): Basically we’re wrapping it up now, it’s going to be phenomenal! It’s called The Force MD’s Relived. it’s going to bring everybody back to the moment when the Force MD’s touched down. Also pinpoint alot of the things that we brought to the music culture. Some of the things alot of people overlooked, but once they see the documentary they’re going to be really surprised. The Force MD’s was the first to marry the Hip-Hop/Soul and Hip-Hop/Doo Wop. Also Jessie D was instrumental in being one of the first guys doing the human beat box. Like Dougie Fresh and Biz Markie and them got the human beat box off of Jessie D. Force MD’s is the first Hip-Hop/R&B group to have a DJ on the stage with them apart of the set. Also Jessie D was one of the first freestyle rappers, it wasn’t that many people doing that. At that time everybody would have written raps, even with battle raps. Stevie was one of the first to rap off the top of his head. People like Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Jam Master J, bless his soul all basically all labeled Steve as the first they seen freestyle rapping. Another thing, is even before LL Cool J’s record I Need Love, Steve was the first to rap to like a slow R&B track. And even before Wu Tang came with the whole Karate thing, Jesse and Steve and everybody who was on stage, we got footage of this…was doing karate and coming with that whole concept.
UrbanBridgez.com: As one of the first major R&B/Hip-Hop doo wop groups, do you guys ever feel underrated, like you don’t get as much credit as you deserve?
Khalil (Force MD’s): Oh yeah, that’s the purpose of this documentary when you got somebody who merges a new sound together, like when we say Hip-Hop. We always have the pioneers in our minds like at all the award shows and even magazines and things like that. Force MD’s don’t get that credit. I think after this documentary and people see all the pioneers and everybody cosigning and basically saying these guys were the ones to bring this whole sound and these other different elements that make up this culture together. It’s going to really wake up alot of people. You doing this interview with these points I’m making is going to shake alot of people but alot of people are going to bare witness to it.
Steve (Force MD’s): Also, us and New Edition were two of the groups out of the 80s to really set a big trend. For like Jodeci, Boyz II Men and everything. They get all the credit and homage and leave us out of it. It’s going to take this documentary to wake these people up! Once we get on these BET award shows and perform, people gonna look at us like wow. We’ve been missing this all this time.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s something you guys would like to see change with the current state that R&B music is in?
Steve (Force MD’s): It’s funny you ask that because it’s kind of like evolving & everything evolves different. Sometimes the trends come back, they don’t be totally the same trend. You see alot of bands coming back, even with the rappers doing it with a band. Like the real blunt language of the current R&B, in our time it was more of the romantic, suspense, more so. It wasn’t as raunchy as it is now. It’s slowly taking it’s course, but it’s never going to be where we had it. They got a whole new era of technology now and generations that’s going to brung it where it currently is. They only thing we wanted to do was to stay true to the skills of singing. Like when they had real singers, real music and real songs. Songs that can touch people and be classics, there’s not alot of classic music of R&B out right now. Like Force MD’s songs you can play forever, we get calls every few days from people across the country, saying they’re playing your record. That’s because they’re classic songs and they were well written and well sung. In the documentary Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis say, these guys are strong vocalist they came in and knocked this out in two hours.
Jessie: (Force MD’s): Also alot of R&B singers today, not all but some of them they’re not really singing. They’re using computers and all this different technology to make their voice sound really good. People like The Force MD’s because we’re natural singers, we can sing anywhere! Some use that special technology in the studio, then you see them live they don’t sound like the record.
Steve (Force MD’s): Right now with R&B, you can’t tell who’s who anymore. Everybody sounds the same, everybody is trying to sound like R. Kelly or Trey Songz and they all sound alike! We give big respect to R. Kelly we think he is a genius. But with these records today alot of them sound alike, that’s why I’m not sure which ones are going to last for years to come & they’re all saying same thing. Shawty this and shawty that, I don’t know man (laughs). Even though we sing old school, we can do anything. You got to follow in that stage and know the true you & do true music! I’m not saying their music isn’t true, but timeless music stands on it’s own! Some songs are timeless and last forever.
UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of the documentary, Tell us about what’s going on with you guys these days?
Steve (Force MD’s): We’re doing an album to drop with the documentary. We’re working on something with Big Daddy Kane for his album right now. We just did something with Melly Mel, Melly Mel got a single coming out from his album. We did some hooks. We’re in the process of going in the studio now working on songs, to go with the documentary as well as for the album right now. We’ve been lining up producers, it’s looking good! Because they way we work, once we have all the dates and the producers are confirmed we should have an album out within two months.
Jessie (Force MD’s): We also want to let everybody know that the Force MD’s are still out here performing! People think like the Force MD’s died, there’s all these misconceptions out there.
UrbanBridgez.com: Expected release of documentary and album?
Jessie (Force MD’s): Hopefully we have everything done by first quarter of next year.
UrbanBridgez.com: Any last words for your fans?
Jessie (Force MD’s): We love them and thanks for supporting us and we won’t let you down!
Steve (Force MD’s): When we come to your city, come see us we won’t let you down!
Khalil (Force MD’s): Put positive energy in everything you do & everything will be beautiful for you!