Although Moe had been rapping since at least 1976, it was when he formed The Treacherous Three with Special K, DJ Easy Lee and Spoonie G (who would leave shortly after the formation and was replaced by L.A. Sunshine) in 1978. The group became well known for their singles "Body Rock", "Feel the Heart Beat" and "Action", and their song "The New Rap Language" earned Kool Moe Dee the distinction of inventing the "double time flow", which involved rapid sixteenth-note rhythms, with a lot of internal rhymes.
On September 11, 1981, while still a part of the Three, Moe was featured in a very one-sided rap battle with Busy Bee Starski at Harlem World, taking everyone there by surprise by roasting Starski. Before that night, rap "battles" were based around playing to the crowd. Moe's roast of Starski had changed the face of the "battle rap" forever, laying the groundwork for many rap battle leagues and diss tracks in the years to follow. That same year, they moved over to Sugar Hill Records with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. in 1984, they were featured in the movie Beat Street with Doug E. Fresh.
In 1985, the Treacherous Three disbanded. Unlike the other members, who pursued solo careers, Moe finished school and attended the State University of New York at Old Westbury, where he received a degree in communications. The next year, he released his self titled solo album on Jive Records. Backed by production from a then-16 year-old Teddy Riley (Who had produced the Gold-selling single "The Show" the same year Moe was in University), the album reached the eighty-third position on the Billboard 200.
in 1987, Kool Moe Dee became the instigator in a years-long feud with LL Cool J, whose album Bigger and Deffer went Double Platinum that year. Moe noted that LL had stolen his style of rapping, and did not show any appreciation of the rappers who paved the way for him, claiming to be "rap's new Grandmaster". This, along with his personal resentment of the fact that all of hip hop's founding fathers (excluding himself) were being ignored, lead to the creation of How Ya Like Me Now. Once again backed by Teddy Riley, Moe made his grievances known on the album cover, posing in front of a white Jeep crushing LL's signature Kangol hat on the cover. This would prove to be a success for Moe.How Ya Like Me Now went platinum and helped kickstart the New Jack Swing era alongside The Golden Age of Hip Hop, churning out two hit singles: the title track and "Wild Wild West", which both hit the top 30 of the R&B charts.
In 1988, LL Cool J retaliated to Moe's verbal attacks with "Jack the Ripper" a B-side from the single "Going Back to Cali", calling him a "punk" and "washed up". Moe, in turn, released his third album Knowledge Is King in 1989, which included the hidden track "Let's Go", a scathing response to the comments LL had made on "Jack the Ripper". Taking a brief break from the feud, Moe contributed vocals to Quincy Jones' album Back On The Block in 1990, alongside Ice-T, Melle Mel, and Big Daddy Kane. This earned Moe his first and only Grammy Award, for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group". That same year, he appeared on "Self Destruction" alongside Public Enemy, Heavy D, KRS-One, and others as a part of the "Stop the Violence Movement".
1991 saw the decline of Moe's career. His fourth album Funke Funke Wisdom bombed hard in the wake of LL Cool J's Career Resurrection with Mama Said Knock You Out. Moe would be released from Jive Records a year later. A 1993 compilation release and a fourth album, Interlude did nothing to return him to his previous mainstream success. His last major song appearances were on Will Smith's 1999 single "Wild Wild West", where he re-recoreded the chorus from his own song of the same name, a featured spot on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Downtown", and a remix of "Where Are They Now" by Nas in 2007.
Currently, he hosts SpitFire with Kool Moe Dee, an internet hip hop talk show.
- Kool Moe Dee (1986)
- How Ya Like Me Now (1987)
- Knowledge Is King (1989)
- African Pride (EP, 1990)
- Back On The Block (1990, with Quincy Jones)
- Funke Funke Wisdom (1991)
- Interlude (1994)
"But three days later, go see the Troper..."
- Added Alliterative Appeal and Alliterative List: From what is considered one of the best diss verses of all time:You got hands for tryna be me, now LL stands forLower Level, Lack LusterLast Least, Limp LoverLousy Lame, Latent LethargicLazy Lemon, Little LogicLucky Leech, Liver LippedLaborious Louse on a Loser's LipsLive in Limbo, Lyrical LapseLow Life with the Loud Raps, boy
- He pulls it off again in "Death Blow", but much less spetacularly.
- Arch-Enemy: LL Cool J, full stop. He also had a simmering beef with Run as well.
- Battle Rapping: The Trope Maker for modern battle rapping.
- Body Horror: The doctor's description of what would happen to Moe's manhood in "Go See the Doctor", if he refused to get treatment for his gonorrhea, glazed with a coating of Black Comedy:
- He turned and said, in a real deep voice,
"Have it your way, if that's your choice,
And I'll put it down if you want me to put it.
But don't blame me when it turns into a foot extended from the middle of your body.
And the next time you see your cute hottie,
You won't be able to screw, the only thing you can do is just kick her, so go take Karate!"
- Conscious Hip Hop
- Crossover: Back On the Block featured four rappers from two different eras (Moe and Melle Mel representing the original "old school", and Ice-T and Big Daddy Kane representing the then-current "Golden Age"), plus Quincy Jones on the intro. "Birdland", from the same album, featured Moe and Kane rapping alongside trumpet solos from Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The 1981 Harlem World rap battle against Busy Bee Starski, as covered in The Roast entry.
- Hardcore Hip Hop
- New Jack Swing: One of the genere's earliest and most successful artists from 1986 to 1991.
- Last of His Kind: Kool Moe Dee is the last of the original "old school" pioneers still making new material today.
- Really Gets Around: The main character of "Dumb Dick" is focused solely on banging every girl he gets. This eventually ruins his life.
- The Rival: Again, LL Cool J, and Run.
- The Roast: the Harlem World freestyle roast of Busy Bee Starski that was the precursor to modern battle rapping.
- Slut-Shaming: Criticized on "I'm a Player", in which Moe Dee points out the double standard concerning promiscuous guys and promiscuous girls.If a guy has a hundred girls, he's a heroA girl has a hundred guys, she's a zeroDon't blame me, cause society made the ruleBut I think they made it for me
- STD Immunity: "Go See the Doctor" was the first rap song to both avert and deconstruct it. Three days after having a one night stand with a girl without a condom, Moe finds out the hard way he caught gonorrhea from her, and is forced to go to a walk in clinic to get treatment.Three days later...I woke up fussin', yellin' and cussin'Drip-drip-drippin' and puss-puss-pussin'I went to the bathroom and said"Mama mia, Imma kill that girl next time I see her!"
When it came to girls, he didn't care where he wentHe'd hound em like a dog, so we used to say "fetch!"And it was no tellin what he would catchHe was in the doctor's office almost every weekHe became so popular, everybody'd speakWhen he walked in they'd say (Hi Rick)And when he passed by, they'd say (Dumb Dick)
- The main character of "Dumb Dick" also averts this, due to the character's uber-promiscuity with women:
- Take That!: All towards LL Cool J: "How Ya Like Me Now", "Let's Go", and "Death Blow". Hell "Bad Mutha" took shots at LL (as well as Slick Rick and a few others), and that was a year before their beef started.
- Technician vs. Performer: One of the big differences between him and LL were their skills and stage presence. While LL was no slouch, Moe Dee was the more technically sound rapper, while LL's charisma was leagues above Moe's, and allowed him to survive well into the 2020s, while Moe's career died during the gangsta rap boom.
- Too Dumb to Live: The main subject of "Dumb Dick", who would rather spend his time chasing girls than actually take care of himself. Eventually, he winds up homeless due to his poor decsisons. Though that still doesn't stop him from chasing women...
- Ur-Example: The first modern battle rapper.
- Warrior Poet: The first in rap.