Mark Anthony Morales, known as Prince Markie Dee of early rap group the Fat Boys and a hit songwriter and producer for Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and others, has died, according to his manager, Louie “Uncle Louie” Gregory. He was 52.
While the Fat Boys were often considered a novelty act of early hip-hop, they racked up a series of hit albums throughout the 1980s and appeared in the popular films “Krush Groove” and “Disorderlies.” Morales was one of the group’s key rappers, songwriters and producers, and went on to a successful solo career, releasing the 1992 album “Free” on Columbia, which included the hit “Typical Reasons (Swing My Way),” and “Love Daddy” on Motown three years later.
The Brookyn-spawned group — Morales, Darren Robinson (The Human Beat Box) and Damon Wimbley (Kool Rock Ski) — came up under the tutelage of Kurtis Blow and benefitted from his association with Russell Simmons, one of the key executives of the early hip-hop world (although word at the time had it that Madonna originally wanted the Fat Boys to open her 1985 “Like a Virgin” tour but Simmons hustled in his new act the Beastie Boys instead).
Originally known as the Disco 3, they embraced their plus-sized physiques and made an immediate splash with their self-titled debut album. The group was a highlight of the legendary “Fresh Fest” tours of 1984 and ’85, which also featured Blow, Run-DMC, Whodini and, on the second tour, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Far from a one-hit wonder, the group had a steady string of gold albums, with 1987’s “Crushin’” (their debut for the PolyGram-affiliated label Tin Pan Apple) going platinum. Morales was also one of the first hip-hop stars of Latin descent.
As Questlove said in an Instagram post paying tribute to Morales on Thursday, “They were figuratively (no weight jokes) the biggest act in hip hop at some point in time. Like the first act that showed this culture might have some real international legs to it. Like they were so dope we just took them for granted. They did dope routines & dancesteps, albums went gold & platinum. Did movies & tv & commercials. They explored territories for the first time that today just seems like *yawn* a Tuesday.”
After the group split in the early ’90s, Morales went on to produce early hits for Blige — including her first hit, “Real Love” — Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Craig Mack and Marc Anthony. From 2008 on, he worked as a popular radio DJ in Miami.