World Class Wreckin Cru
|Dr. Dre||Andre Young||February 18th, 1965 Compton, California|
|Alonzo||Antonio Hardy||September 10th 1968, Brooklyn, New York|
|DJ Yella||Antoine Carraby||December 11, 1967 Compton, California|
|Cli-N-Tel||Marquette Hawkins||(unknown by author)|
|Shakespear||(unknown by author)||(unknown by author)|
|Michel'le||Michelle Toussaint||1970 (unknown by author)|
|Mona Lisa||(unknown by author)||(unknown by author)|
The World Class Wreckin’ Cru was an innovative group existing inside the electro-funk movement evolving from the downtown Los Angeles west coast scene. Seen during the unidentified period after the reign of disco and before the explosion of hip-hop, World Class kept the party hopping with their pre-dated beats and electronic sampling. As they started to produce local hits, they were known as west coast’s first glimpse of rap music and their success was based on a new wave mystique swimming against the current of contemporary trend. World Class would also serve as a vehicle for spawning new talent to dominate not only the west coast but re-evolve the complete atmosphere and philosophy of hip-hop music itself.
World Class Wreckin’ Cru (so-called because of the amount of equipment they had to tear down to pack away every night.) showcased themselves in a club owned by the visionary force behind this movement, former ‘locking’ dancer, Alonzo Williams. Before opening ‘Eve’s After Dark’ in 1979, Lonzo transformed from locking to DJing dances under the name of Disco Construction. Seeing the popularity of this new craze, he entered the market of running nightclub performances. The club opened with Detroit–born Unknown DJ directing the music program whose main influence derived from an east coast flavour, Afrika’s Soulsonic Force, Orbit and Scorpio. As the ‘80s arrived, so did electronic funk, sampling drum beats fused with old school rap format. Lonzo revamped his club and hired local DJs Antoine ‘Yella’ Carraby and Andre ‘Dr. Dre’ Young who were resident DJ’s on KDAY-AM radio station on the hip-hop show as members of the Mixmasters Crew and hustling their own mixtape productions on the side of working in Eve’s on weekends. This period would also create history as Dre and Yella would cross paths with a teenage performing group called CIA (Criminals In Action) starring O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson, Dre’s cousin Tony ‘Sir Jinx’ Wheatob and Darrell ‘K-Dee’ Johnson who caught the attention of regular patron, local drug dealer Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright who was looking to capitalize on this new fad and turn his business legal. Before this eventuated World Class were almost the sole performers in the club, managed by Alonzo who smooth-talked his way into obtaining a record deal from CBS Records for the group and was using money generated from sales to build an inexpensive four-track recording studio at the back of the club to cut records for his acts. With the rapping of another local talent, Cli-N-Tel he opened his own label under Macola Records called Kru-Cut Records and their first recorded singles were "Surgery" and "Juice". This was 1984 and both cuts became electro-rap favourites in the west coast club circuit and sold many units across the coast.
By 1985 Kru-Cut had produced World Class’ début album called ‘World Class’ with CLi-N-Tel leaving to control his own direction in life, leaving the group’s dancer Shakespeare to step up to be the prominent MC as they signed with Epic Records. With this they released a string of singles and also their second album, Rapped In Romance.
World Class’s success was building a strong army of fans in the underground scene and each member a valued reputation. At this stage the look of Prince and Michael Jackson’s Thriller outfits were cool, glitzy purple leather suits, sequin suits not unlike the glam-rock look running parallel to this scene, Dre was growing tired of the image and considered Lonzo’s direction to be soft and yearned to control his own expression in music. He was bound to Lonzo’s Kru-Cut Records contract and often found himself in debt to him for him for using his recording studio and bail money every time he was put behind bars in jail for unpaid fines on his car. In order to pay this off, Dre worked endlessly for Lonzo DJing and producing tracks for World Class’s and Kru Cut’s recordings.
At this time Dre was working on side projects for local entrepreneur Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright with his homies from CIA in the Kru-Cut studio and Ice Cube was enlisted to ghost-write for the World Class single ‘House Calls / Cabbage Patch’ single in 1987 and shortly after, featuring Michel’le, (Dre’s girlfriend) came out the slow jam hit ‘Before You Turn off the Lights’ thast was a huge hit across the country on the pop charts in early 1988. Dre was arrested and thrown back in jail after his Mazda RX7 car was impounded for compounding car fines of over $900, Lonzo wasn’t prepared to bail him out, Eazy-E paid this out in return for Dre’s production trade for E’s new record company ‘Ruthless Records’. This disrupted the continuation of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru click with Dre spending more time working under Eazy, Lonzo hung onto the master tapes of World Class releasing Turn Off The Lights In The Fast Lane album which entered the R&B Top 40 in 1988 concurrent with Eazy and Dre’s combined World Class and CIA collaboration of talent known as NWA. Lonzo released a further LP called ‘Phases in Life’ released in 1990 under Lonzo’s solo identity. Later, remaining World Class members, Shakespeare pursued a position as a pastor. Michel'le married Dr. Dre and released an album on Ruthless Records. Lonzo attempted to play off the big success of the group's last single by reassembling a new World Class Wreckin Cru.