Kool Moe Dee

Rapper Kool Moe Dee, who became famous for his "speed-rapping," is one of popular music's most notable disappearing acts. After pioneering rap music in the late '70s with the Treacherous Three (one of the first hip-hop units) and later as a solo artist, Dee became embroiled in a feud with popular rapper L.L. Cool J, and stopped making records shortly thereafter.

Kool Moe Dee was born Mohandas DeWese 36 years ago today in New York. His love of rhyming came from reading Dr. Seuss stories and the poems of boxing great Muhammad Ali.

He originally started rapping in his native Harlem by grabbing the mic at house parties. Kool Moe Dee met his Treacherous Three bandmates L.A. Sunshine and Special K. in high school, and they began cutting records, including the popular "Yes We Can-Can" and "Feel the Heartbeat." But when the trio was eclipsed in the hip-hop community by crossover rap acts such as Run-D.M.C., Dee left the Three to go solo.

After graduating from college with a communications degree, Dee issued his 1986 self-titled solo debut, featuring his crossover hit with Teddy Riley, "Go See the Doctor" (RealAudio excerpt), a song about AIDS. Rappers showered Dee with critical praise and respect for creating what many felt was a classic LP of rap's "old school."

The platinum-certified How Ya Like Me Now? (1987) began the feud with L.L. Cool J. The title track hinted that Dee thought L.L. ripped off his style, angering the latter artist. The two bickered on record for years.

The next year's "Wild, Wild West" was a top-5 R&B hit for Kool Moe Dee. Knowledge is King, featuring "They Want Money," followed in 1989. When Dee performed music from the album on the Grammy Awards presentation, he became the first rap act to perform on that show. Also that year, he appeared on Quincy Jones' acclaimed Back on the Block LP and cut "Self-Destruction" for KRS-One's "Stop the Violence" Movement.

In 1990, backstage at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, Dee and L.L. Cool J called a temporary truce to their feud.

Kool Moe Dee had a minor hit with "Rise 'N' Shine," featuring KRS-1 and Public Enemy's Chuck D. The track was from his critically panned 1991 LP, Funke Funke Wisdom, which also spawned "How Kool Can One Blackman Be?"

Dee soon ran afoul of the IRS by failing to pay taxes. After his 1993 greatest-hits LP, he reunited briefly with the Treacherous Three for a few shows.

In 1994, Dee issued his most recent album, Interlude.

Though he said he has written many screenplays, Kool Moe Dee's only film credits are as an actor in 1995's "Panther" and 1997's "Gang Related," which also featured Tupac Shakur.

One of the rare rap artists to speak and sing about respecting women, Kool Moe Dee is reportedly living quietly in Los Angeles.

Other birthdays: John "Jay" David (Dr. Hook), 57; Airrion Love (Stylistics), 50; Willie Hall (Booker T. and the MG's), 49; Ali Score (A Flock of Seagulls), 43; Dennis Drew (10,000 Maniacs), 42; Chris Foreman (Madness), 41; David "The Edge" Evans (U2), 38; Rikki Rockett (Poison), 38.