The Unknown DJ

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The Unknown DJ
Birth nameAndre Manuel
BornDetroit, Michigan, United States
OriginCompton, California, United States
Years active1984–present
LabelsTechno Hop Records
Associated actsIce-T
King T
Compton's Most Wanted
MC Eiht

Andre Manuel,[1] a disc jockey and record producer called The Unknown DJ or DJ Unknown, was a pioneer in the Los Angeles area's 1980s music scene, moving from electro funk and electro rap to gangsta rap.[2] Now a legend of West Coast rap, he worked with rapper Ice-T in the early 1980s, then with Alonzo "Grandmaster Lonzo" Williams,[2] and with MC Eiht's group Compton's Most Wanted as the 1990s opened.[3]

Music career[edit]

Manuel started in the music industry through Alonzo Williams, a DJ and party promoter in the Los Angeles area.[1] Since his start in 1974, Williams, working under his brand name Disco Construction, earned the title "Grandmaster Lonzo."[2] In 1979, Lonzo took over The Eve After Dark nightclub, about a quarter mile outside of Compton.[2]

Lonzo mentored Manuel, and they began working together.[1] In 1984, Lonzo formed the Wreckin' Cru, a social group of his nightclub's resident DJs.[2] While working with the Cru, Manuel took on a DJ name, The Unknown DJ.[1] The Wreckin' Cru, which included DJ Yella and Dr. Dre, soon gained a rapper, CLI-nTEL, and began recording the electro rap.[2]

After taking classes at Long Beach City College to further his abilities in electronic music and recording, Unknown launched Techno Hop Records.[2] Since 1984, he produced or released such "techno hop" songs—fusions of electro funk and hip hop[1]—as "Basstronic," "808 Beats," and "Let's Jam." He had also produced early tracks of Ice-T, and then gangsta rap's inaugural anthem, Ice-T's 1986 B-side "6 in the Mornin'."[2] Later, Unknown DJ produced for MC Eiht's crew Compton's Most Wanted. Other artists include A.L.T., Brownside, N.W.A, Bobby Jimmy, and King Tee.

The Unknown DJ also figures, if tangentially, into the story of Death Row Records, whose cofounder Dr. Dre is a Wreckin' Cru alumnus. Reportedly, Dre's colleague The D.O.C. had suggested naming the newly forming label Def Row.[4][5] But, already owning the rights to that name, DJ Unknown would later explain that he had made the name for a potential record label to open under Morgan Creek Entertainment Group.[6] In July 1991, Unknown sold the rights to Dre's team, which, including Suge Knight at the forming label's helm, merely chose, by 1992, to name the label more bluntly.[7]


Album cover for the single "Let's Jam"
Album cover for the single "Basstronic"


  • Unknown's House (Techno Kut, 1990)


  • "808 Beats" (Techno Hop, 1984)
  • "Beatronic," with DJ Three D (Techno Hop, 1984)
  • "Let's Jam" (Techno Hop, 1985)
  • "Break-Down (Dance Your Pants Off!)" (Techno Kut, 1988)
  • "X-Men," with DJ Slip (Kru-Cut/Techno Kut, 1988)
  • "Revenge of the X-Men," with DJ Slip (Techno Kut, 1988)
  • "Basstronic" (Techno Kut, 1988)
  • "This Is Electro" (Techno Hop, 2008)


  1. ^ a b c d e Charnas, Dan (2010). The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. New York: New American Library. p. 182. ISBN 9781101445822.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Diallo, David (2009). "From electro-rap to G-funk: A social history of rap music in Los Angeles and Compton, California". In Mickey Hess (ed.). Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press. pp. 229, 231, 233. ISBN 9780313343216.
  3. ^ Birchmeier, Jason (2008). "Compton's Most Wanted". In Woodstra, Chris; Bush, John; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (eds.). Old School Rap and Hip-Hop. All Music Guide: Required Listening. 2. New York, NY: Backbeat Books. p. 15. ISBN 9780879309169.
  4. ^ Corcoran, Michael (1996-01-25). "Dead man rapping". Dallas Observer. Dallas Observer, LP. Retrieved 2017-10-26. "I'm the one who told Dre to change the name to Death Row," Curry says.
  5. ^ Westhoff, Ben (2012-11-19). "The Making of The Chronic". LA Weekly. LA Weekly, LP. Retrieved 2017-10-26. The name Death Row came from my partner, Unknown [DJ]. Initially, it was supposed to be Def Row, as in Def Jam. D-E-F. And Dre bought the name Def Row and changed the name.
  6. ^ West Coast Pioneers (2008). "Interview unknown dj west coast pioneers 11 2008 part two". (Podcast). SoundCloud. Event occurs at 40:00. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  7. ^ Morris, Chris (1996-01-20). "Death Row Is Target of Suit By Former Partner, Rapper". Billboard. New York: Billboard Music Group. p. 94. Retrieved 2017-10-26.

External links[edit]