Before he mentored Large Professor on the SP-1200 and programmed drums for Devo, Paul C. McKasty cut his teeth as a bass player for the pop/rock group The Mandolindley Road Show in the early to mid-1980s. When the group recorded and released their lone, self-titled album in 1985, Paul developed a growing interest in a role behind the boards as a producer. Much of his fascination with production came from Moogy Klingman, a musician, producer, and founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia who oversaw the album’s mixing and mastering and took the 20-year-old McKasty under his wing.
When The Manolindley Road Show disbanded a short time after the release of their debut album, Paul took to making beats on an SP-12 sampler in his bedroom studio in Rosedale, Queens, eventually transitioning the studio setup into his garage.
It wasn’t long before The Clientele Brothers — a Queens rap duo composed of MCs Will Seville and Eddie O’Jay — caught wind of McKasty’s bedroom production. Extremely impressed by what they heard and saw, they referred Paul to Laurelton, Queens rapper Mikey D.
During their initial meeting, Mikey D was taken aback when he realized that his new acquaintance was white. When Paul started playing him instrumentals from his collection, he couldn’t believe his ears. “The beats that he played blew my mind,” he explained in my longform piece on Paul C. “At that time, that was unheard of. To be that dope and be white. That just blew my goddamn mind.”
“He made me sound like I could do the beatbox on ‘Bust A Rhyme Mike’. He put that whole song together from those three little things that I did.” — Mikey D
Mikey was so impressed by Paul that he likened him to the legendary Rick Rubin, even hinting that Paul had a superior sound. “Paul C had soul,” he told me. “He had the street stuff that cats was looking for. Rick Rubin, his beats were dope but they were something that you would expect to come from a person like that. The beats that Paul C was playing, you wouldn’t expect, especially when you first met Paul.”
Knowing that he had found something special in the young producer, it wasn’t long before Mikey D and his DJ Johnny Quest asked Paul to be the third member of Mikey D & The L.A. Posse — making them the only group he would ever be an official member of.
Though Mikey D and Paul’s earliest sessions may have taken place in a garage, an unexpected opportunity to upgrade their recording experience presented itself when Paul went to 1212 Studio in Jamaica, Queens, to buy a keyboard voice synthesizer. Paul was enamored with the space right away and asked 1212 employee Mick Corey for a job. Won over by McKasty’s enthusiasm, Corey gave him a gig doing grunt work and let him work his way up to mixing. “Paul was green. I showed him a few things. He started doing sessions and generally took off from there,” Corey told the New York Daily News for McKasty’s obituary.
“He caught something from what Rahzel did earlier like a bass and then he played it himself. It’s like he programmed him into the keys to become a key on a piano .” — Mikey D
Before long, Paul was sneaking Mikey D and Johnny Quest in after hours to work on their album. It was during these sessions that Mikey D saw Paul elevate his sample flipping skills to another level. One night Paul recorded Mikey, a novice beatboxer, making three separate percussion sounds with his mouth. Then he loaded them into his SP-12 sampler, eventually sequencing the simple sounds into a flawless beat. “He made me sound like I could do the beatbox on ‘Bust A Rhyme Mike’. He put that whole song together from those three little things that I did,” Mikey said.
Paul’s creativity on “Bust A Rhyme Mike” may have been impressive, but it was the session with famous beatboxer Rahzel for the group’s single “I Get Rough” that left Mikey in complete awe.
After Paul recorded Rahzel making bass tones with his mouth, he sampled the tones into his SP-12, changed their pitch, and replayed the “Brick House” bassline with them — a level of sampler manipulation that was almost unheard of at the time. “Rahzel didn’t know that his voice was going to become a bassline,” Mikey said. “It’s not like Paul told Rahzel to play ‘Brick House’. He caught something from what Rahzel did earlier like a bass and then he played it himself. It’s like he programmed him into the keys to become a key on a piano .”
“The beats that he played blew my mind. At that time, that was unheard of. To be that dope and be white. That just blew my goddamn mind.” — Mikey D
Mikey D wasn’t the only one who was amazed by Paul’s creativity and originality. Rahzel seconded his praise of Paul’s sample manipulation in Dave Tompkins’ seminal 2001 Paul C article for Big Daddy magazine. “He was one of the first to put together a song that was all vocals,” Rahzel said. “The only person who came close to what Paul was doing was Bobby McFerrin. And this is ‘85.”
Comparing a 21-year-old producer who was just getting started to someone who would win a Grammy for Song of the Year and Record of the Year in 1989 is a remarkable piece of praise. But it wasn’t uncommon for Paul, whose beats earned the admiration of DJ Premier, Madlib, Pete Rock, and many other production legends.
Sadly, Paul’s life was tragically cut short in 1989. A mere 24 years old at the time of his passing, we’ll never know what he could have accomplished if he were still alive today. Fortunately, a considerable body of Paul C’s work can now be found on streaming services and YouTube to help keep his legacy alive.
And Mikey D & The L.A. Posse’s Better Late Than Never-In Memory of Paul C album just turned thirty, with a special, commemorative cassette addition available through Red Line Music Distribution. Featuring cuts like “Bust A Rhyme Mike” and “I Get Rough”, the album showcases front to back production from Paul C — a claim no other album can make. However you decide to experience the project, it is well worth revisiting if you’re looking to learn more about the music of Paul C and the talented artists he worked with.