Intelligent and middle-class, rapper Marvin Young earned a degree in economics from USC, where he met Michael Ross and Matt Dike, co-founders of the fledgling Delicious Vinyl rap label. He made his debut as Young MC on the single "I Let 'Em Know." In 1989, Young collaborated with Tone-Loc on "Wild Thing," the first Top Ten pop hit for a black rapper, and the follow-up smash "Funky Cold Medina." Young stepped out on his own later in the year with the Top Ten smash "Bust a Move," a good-natured examination of romantic successes and failures spiced by his sense of humor and quick-tongued rapping. The song won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance, and its strong pop appeal helped the attendant album, Stone Cold Rhymin', go platinum. The follow-up, "Principal's Office," was a humorous, everyday high-school tale resembling a Chuck Berry plot and also climbed into the Top 40.
Following Young's success, he split acrimoniously from Delicious Vinyl, citing restrictions on his work and unwanted tinkering with his album; the label sued him for breach of contract and eventually settled out of court. Young signed with Capitol and released Brainstorm in 1991, expanding into message tracks promoting personal responsibility. The album didn't fare as well, and by 1993, audience tastes had shifted towards harder-edged hip-hop, rendering What's the Flavor? a flop. In late 2000, he attempted a return with Ain't Going Out Like That on the indie label Young Man Moving. It didn't make much of an impression in the rap world, but Young tried again in the summer of 2002 with Engage the Enzyme.