M-TRI and DJ Leecy T Find Bliss in Hip-Hop Wedlock
The one-MC one-DJ rap outfits have always shared a special bond, but none have shared holy matrimony. That is, until MTRI and DJ Leecy T. They recently released their new videos for "Rush" (with Ukraine artist Dee the Conscious One) and "Expression" (with Slovakia's Golias and DJ Muki), both filmed on their European tour, and the happily married hip-hop couple are proving the energy and style that's made them mainstays of the New York underground translates all over the world.
Linda Turley DJ Leecy T and M-TRI
We spoke to the duo, who are currently finishing their new album Monday Morning Music, about bringing New York boom bap across the map, as well as the advantages and challenges of hip-hop wedlock.
See also: The Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time
How did you two first meet?
DJ Leecy T: Many, many moons ago. In 2001, I had recently moved to New York from Virginia Beach and was working in Times Square where I met [M-Tri] working at the ESPN Zone. Were you hosting or DJing?
M-TRI: I was DJing an open mic.
DJ Leecy T: Yeah, down in Alphabet City. Remember Korova Milk Bar? That was where he was. I didn't know a lot of friends, so I would pretty much go there every week and hang out. We became friends then.
M-TRI: We were friends for about six months, and then we started dating.
Being you were DJing at the time, did you find your tastes in hip-hop went together well?
DJ Leecy T: Yeah. I think I was more A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys and heavy into The Roots. He introduced me to more of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, I didn't know about Da Bush Babiez so he introduced me to them.
M-TRI: I was more into the Gang Starr stuff. We both had similar interests into Wu-Tang type of stuff. I liked the older stuff as well, Kane, Rakim.
That was also when you were part of Zoned Out, correct?
M-TRI: Yeah, [fellow Zoned Out MC] Deep Thought was host of the open mic, and I was the DJ.
Being your relationship began before the internet changed how hip-hoppers self-promote the events and music, did you find any challenges dating around the underground hip-hop schedule?
M-TRI: Yeah, getting on the phone and calling people. Flyers and stuff. We were together for a while before we started doing music together. Even when I was with Zoned Out, we did a couple shows where she sang the hook on some of the songs. That was the introduction for us working together, this was way before she started DJing.
DJ Leecy T: Yeah, that was 2004-2005, and we didn't start doing music as a group until 2009. We'd been married for a couple year by that point.
At what point following the wedding did making music begin?
M-TRI: We got married in 2007 and would just be hanging around the house playing music. Leecy had really good music selections, a wide range of different kinds of genres. I was like "I should show you how to mix and blend songs together." She picked it up really quick and then the lightbulb went off. I was like "wait a minute, I'm doing the solo thing now and wanted to do the MC/DJ duo," once I showed her how to scratch, that's how it started.
DJ Leecy T: It was maybe three months after he started showing me stuff that we started doing shows together. He would show me a scratch or something, then go hangout for a bit, and three hours later would come back and I'd have the scratch down. It's easy because we're both here, we can coordinate our schedules, we can practice at all hours, do rehearsals...
M-TRI: Rehearsals in our pajamas.
DJ Leecy T: Right, it's very convenient.
Are there any challenging aspects about rocking together as a married couple?