It’s nearly impossible to have grown up in the 80s and not have been a fan of The Force M.D.’s (unless you’re a Cold Crush Brother); they blended R&B, hip-hop and doo wop effortlessly and were part of the sound that provided the soundtrack to our lives. Like many acts from that era, they endured trials, changes in the music and the tragic deaths of its members. But The Force M.D.’s are still standing and the new documentary The Force M.D.’s Relived chronicles Staten Island’s finests’ (with respect to the Wu-Tang Clan) climb to the top, their descent, and their fight through the tears.
Khalil and Stevie Lundy have come a long way from singing on the Staten Island Ferry with their brother T.C.D. and uncle Jessie D. They’ve come even further from Stevie D. moonlighting Uptown with Dr. Rock and Mercury as The Force M.C.’s. Yet, they seem to be very close to where we met them twenty-some odd years ago with baby blue sweaters, harmonizing with an edge of hip-hop, just wanting to make their own place on the musical landscape. These days, they’re out to remind people of the spot they carved out and before anyone came knocking for an “UnSung” or “Behind the Music” special, they decided to tell their own story.
A little over five years ago during a conversation with friend Frazier Prince, it struck Khalil that the true story behind The Force M.D.’s needed to be told, so he got his brother Stevie on board and designed the plans for what has become The Force M.D’s Relived. Splicing together rare footage and testimonials from record company execs, hip-hop luminaries, family members, and members of New Edition and Boyz II Men, we get an extremely accurate portrayal of not only the come-up, but the undoing of The Force M.D.’s due to drugs, alcohol, shady record deals, shifts in the industry and the reality of death.
The Force M.D.’s, despite all of their talent, were always underdogs; they were from Staten Island, emerged around the same time as New Edition, plus they were combining R&B and hip-hop far before Ron G.’s blend tapes or a certain Bad Boy made it cool to do so. The Force M.D.’s were trendsetters and really represented for the cats that weren’t traditional R&B fans; they rocked furs on album covers, gold chains, and didn’t have the cookie cutter looks as other groups did during that period of time. Yeah, The Force M.D.’s were for the streets. The documentary was made to serve as a reminder to those who’ve overlooked the group’s contributions and as an introduction to generations that hear the name and know the songs, but don’t know the history of the group, the triumphs or some of the trials they’ve faced.
Khalil stepped away from the group before they signed their deal with Tommy Boy Records to embrace his faith, opening the door for Trisco, in the right place at the right time to join the group and it was on from there. We know the songs “Let Me Love You” and “Tears”, and don’t act like you’ve never made a slow jam tape featuring “Tender Love” in a prime spot. But what we didn’t know was the turmoil behind-the-scenes, which was tearing the group apart at the seams. DJ Dr. Rock parted ways with the group after the debut album. Jessie D.–known for his high-energy and Michael Jackson impersonations–had begun dabbling in drugs; that led to a downward spiral causing him to be ejected from the group and ultimately landed him in prison. Trisco began to abuse alcohol and later battled cancer. The records stopped selling, and more poignantly, Mercury died of a heart attack, Dr. Rock [passed], and lead singer T.C.D. died of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
That’s more than enough to destroy the resolve of a group–not only to lose members, but to lose a brother, a close friend, and watch your uncle and another close friend’s lives spin out of control. But The Force has never been just any group. During the screening, the audience became overwhelmed with emotion as each of these moments was discussed onscreen; however, once the credits rolled, there was Stevie D., Trisco, Jessie D., and Khalil–The Force M.D.’s relived. Today, they’re submitting their documentary to different film festivals, Trisco’s cancer is in remission, and they’re on stage doing what they’ve always done: harmonizing. Stevie’s rapping and dancing, Khalil is covering T.C.’s vocals and yes, Jessie is still breaking out those Michael Jackson moves. The Force M.D.’s are sharing their story, their successes and their heartbreaks until a certain awards show (ahem, Soul Train) decides to have them participate and they can show folks how they still get down!
Check out www.forcemdsmusic.com to stay updated on screenings of The Force M.D.’s Relived, tour dates and new music.
Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer; Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the pound. His brand of social commentary, rooted in independent thought can be found at http://www.worldaccording2teef.comand on Twitter @wrldacrdng2teef.