The Force M.D.’s Tell Their Story In One Of Trisco’s Last Interviews (Video)
Last week, Force M.D.’s member Trisco Pearson passed away (September 16) after a public battle with cancer. The veteran singer was an integral part of a Staten Island, New York collective that pioneered the Hip-Hop and R&B hybrid in its melodic harmonizing, beat-boxing, and rapping. That group has an interesting history, that extends back to the early 1980s New York City Hip-Hop scene, Krush Groove and Rappin’, and making #1 hits at Tommy Boy Records well before the days of Naughty By Nature and De La Soul.
While the Force M.D.’s were the subject of an episode of “Unsung,” their online footprint can be vague and incomplete. A group that essentially carved a lane for Drake, worked with Wu-Tang Clan, and mastered the rhyme routine is important to frame in proper context. WHO?MAG TV interviewed Trisco, Stevie D. Lundy, and Rodney “Khalil” Lundy (as seated, left to right) in late 2015. This just-released full interview lets three founders of the Force M.D.’s tell their own story, and perform some of that harmonic melody and beat-boxing 30-plus years after Love Letters.
In this intimate 32-minute full-length video premiering at Ambrosia For Heads, Stevie D. went back to the group’s earliest days, working in two genres. “We are a group from Staten Island, New York. We started singing in local talent shows. We all ended up singing on the Staten Island Ferry; we’d seen a gentleman with a guitar singing Country songs. It gave us a great idea [as a] way to make some money, instead of going out there, robbin’ and stealin’. We knew we had talent, so we copied what he did. We started singing [covers of] a lot of our favorite artists: Jackson 5, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, The Temptations, a lot of that. We put our hat [out there] and started making a lot of money. That was a big hustle for us back in the days,” Stevie said of the days before the group’s recording contract. “‘If you broke, hit the boat.’ That was our motto back in the days.”
It was on the Staten Island Ferry that the group met one of Hip-Hop’s most important and influential taste-makers, Mr. Magic. The radio personality and DJ born John Rivas was playing Rap records at Manhattan’s WBLS. There, he would work with Marley Marl in breaking some of the most important Hip-Hop music of the 1980s, making stars out of relative unknowns. “We bumped into a gentleman named Mr. Magic on the ferry,” Stevie continued. “He introduced us to Tommy Boy [Records].” Mr. Magic, who died of a heart attack in 2009, apparently appreciated the Rap roots of the donation-seeking performers. “Besides [singing on] the boat, we had a Hip-Hop side to us. One of the guys in the group, Mercury—rest in peace—me and him rapped in a group called Dr. Rock & The Force M.C.’s. We sung on the boat by day, and rapped at night.” Stevie revealed that as Mr. Magic set up a meeting with the group and Tommy Boy, Trisco and another faction of the group were present. “We all came along to the office, including Trisco—who was in another group called Cook Corporation. We all signed [to Tommy Boy. Tom Silverman] heard us sing acapella, beat-box, rap, dance, do it all; he signed us on the spot—auditioned by Mr. Magic, ‘Mr. Rap Attack’ himself, who brought us there.”
At Tommy Boy, the Force M.D.’s joined Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, Coldcut, and other Hip-Hop and Dance acts. Stevie said that even though they were being marketed as an R&B act, they kept their Rap roots in tact. “[We were] beat-boxing, back then. Beat-boxing and singing, that’s where Hip-Hop and R&B met in its purest form.” Khalil added, “We were the first Hip-Hop and R&B group that ever came out of Staten Island, before our homeboys Wu-Tang [Clan].” Stevie D. stated the name-change was due to a directional shift, as well as the group’s personnel additions at signing. “We were the L.D.’s and the Force M.C.’s. ‘The L.D.’s’ stood for Lundys and Daniels, that’s my brother Khalil [and me, joined by] T.C. and Jesse Daniels. Trisco’s last name is Pearson, and Mercury’s last name was Nelson, so we couldn’t use ‘L.D.’s’ [anymore]. So we had to take the name ‘Force’ and [combine the previous names] to ‘M.D.’s]. If we would have [kept] ‘Force M.C.’s,’ they would have just thought we all just rapped.”
Trisco then discussed a key song in the group’s early catalog, 1984’s “Tears.” “Me and T.C. were sittin’ around singing one day. We used to always listen to Blue Magic, The Stylistics, and stuff like that. So we figured just came up with that concept of [singing] ‘Tears, falling like the rain. Tears, tears.’ He did the falsetto, and I came in with the first tenor and bridge, and we just did it like that.” Stevie weighed in, “That became the Force M.D.’s first Top 10 hit.”
That single would help land the M.D.’s as openers for a New Edition tour. “When ‘Tears’ hit the deck, it was like, ‘Okay, these guys just don’t sing, they can sing!’ Okay, they can put them on the arena circuit with other guys who can sing,” Stevie said. “The audience really gravitated more to that, even though [there was not a lack] of the MC skills, ’cause if you go back to the days of the Force M.C.’s, the Force M.C.’s was a powerful underground group that would battle the best in New York, and would come out on top. At the end of the day, ‘Tears’ brought the R&B love to the group, and the group was able to build from there.” In the interview conducted by WHO?MAG founder Rob Schwartz, the Lundy brothers later credit Trisco for his indelible role in the singing of “I Wanna Know Your Name.”
While the group toured with Boston, Massachusetts’ New Edition, they would notably lose out to them for a spot in Krush Groove. “The Force M.D.’s was supposed to be in [Krush Groove] but it didn’t work out. They chose New Edition [instead],” Khalil confirmed. However, “Tender Love” appeared on the soundtrack, alongside LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, and Chaka Khan. Stevie deduced, “It was a gift and a curse: we didn’t get in the movie, but we made the biggest record off of the soundtrack. It was [produced by] Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. That was door-opening for them, as far as being producers. […] They knew before we knew that it was gonna be a big song.” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis would go on to make massive hits for Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, Usher, and Mariah Carey. “The song was offered to a couple of artists that didn’t take it.” Khalil pointed out that Freddie Jackson is just one of the artists who initially passed on “Tender Love.” Later in the interview, the group recalls Alicia Keys performing the hit in her stage shows. New Kids On The Block member Jordan Knight also covered the tune, which was sampled by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Trina, and others.
Near the 12:30 mark, the group provides a sampling of their rendition of 1985’s “Force M.D.’s Meet The Fat Boys” collaboration. “We took it back to the Force M.C.’s days,” explained Stevie. “We had a ‘Gilligan’s Island’ [theme] routine back [in the early days]. We just used [that] routine with The Fat Boys. It was fun. They ate a hell of a lot pizza when we recorded that song. We was dead serious [in our lyrics].”
Late in the interview, the group discusses its fallen members, which then included Dr. Rock of the Force M.C.’s era, Antoine “T.C.D.” Lundy, and Charles “Mercury” Nelson. Tragically, it is Trisco who reflected, “[The Force M.D.’s were always] good brothers, man. We were all brothers. We had to sleep in the same hotel rooms, and share things. If one didn’t have, and the next one had, we all had. [This was true] even before we made records and stuff. Even in school, even in jobs. If I got a job, I’d put T on. If T find something, he’d put me on. That’s how we got down.” He credited T.C.D., who is Khalil and Stevie’s older brother, as his best friend.
Elsewhere in the video, the group recalls touring with Madonna, being the first Staten Islanders to appear on “Soul Train,” and compare the cinematic merits of Rappin’ (in which they did appear) with the aforementioned Krush Groove.
#BonusBeat: Force M.D.’s “Itchin’ For A Scratch” music video, which belonged on the Rappin’ soundtrack: