Friday, August 7, 2009

The Malik X Factor by Jimmy J.


Well before raving took place in Toronto there was a DJ known as Malik X, who was arguably one of the best the city had to offer.


In the late ’80s Malik began hosting a community radio show called “Radio London.” If you tuned in to CKLN 88.1 on Saturdays from 7-9pm (extended if Shannon, the DJ who followed, gave up a portion of his slot), your ears were greeted by Malik’s smooth English accent as he proudly showcased new and old sounds of his hometown, London, England. Malik was a spoken-word poet, so he undoubtedly had a wonderful way with words. Even when tongue-twisted on-air he would ever so smoothly unravel his thoughts and his sense of humor would leave us with something far more entertaining than if he spoke it correctly.

There was also a high production quality to his shows that was far from the norm of community radio at the time. His broadcasts featured “Radio London” station identification messages and soundbites heard repeatedly throughout. Creating these samples was second nature to him, as behind the scenes he was constantly producing his own music (tape cover below, more on this later).

dj malik x tape cover

Unlike most mainstream radio DJs at the time, he actually knew how to mix, and mix very well. This skill became apparent when he overcame the challenge of mixing without proper turntables at the CKLN studios.

Aside from his abilities with two turntables and a microphone, he was obviously a proud supporter of community radio. He always encouraged calls from listeners and discussed their comments on air. He went beyond the call of duty in fundraising drives and constantly promoted local record stores (Play De Record and Star Sound) by always preaching to purchase vinyl, rather than dubbing cassette tapes. Malik was well known by his friends and listeners for subtle words of wisdom and well-wishing and his shows often contained his own public service announcements. He was a spiritual man, a fact evident through his words and his appearance, as he was frequently spotted with an ankh dangling from his neck.

He was a hidden gem as far as Toronto radio personalities go: a professional with big radio talent, yet happy with the level of creative control and impact he had with his community radio spot. As a result of his dedication to the show, its quality rivaled the listening experience of mainstream radio but its content was anything but.

With his broadcast talents forming just one part of the many frequencies emanating from Malik, he was also well known for a number of club residencies. In 1989 he spun a rare-groove-based set to a packed house every Saturday evening at the Caribou Club at College and Bathurst. In 1990 the venue was leased to the owners of Sneaky Dee’s, and Caribou’s management relocated to the The Claremont on Queen Street West (now Starbucks) where Malik spun a more progressive set on Saturday nights on the lower floor. In 1991, a Wednesday night at the Cameron House on Queen West (still there) - originally titled “Flirty Dancing” and promoted by Tom Davis - eventually morphed into a longstanding evening of acid jazz with Malik X.

Since Malik offered such a complete package, he also earned regular time slots at various warehouse parties throughout the city. He would often refer to the parties as “raves” because he was aware of the rave buzz in the UK and these events were the closest thing to it at the time. That is, until Malik was united with the Exodus crew via DJ Mark Oliver - who was in charge of the DJ line-up at these events. Exodus raves eventually became a regular installment in Toronto’s after-hours scene and Malik became one of its biggest promotional forces.

dj malix x toronto flyer

Around this date in 1991 the music programming on Malik’s radio show began to shift. Where once the show echoed the soothing sounds of rare-groove, soul and acid jazz, the airways were now filled with hardcore sounds and accelerated beats. Malik was getting caught up in the energy of the burgeoning Toronto scene and his radio show was gradually becoming more techno-based. This change alienated a portion of his regular listeners who tuned in for the eclectic, mellow mix he usually showcased. Unfortunately for them, his broadcasts eventually became a warm-up for the rave that would take place a few hours later down at 23 Hop. His remaining Wednesday residency at the Cameron House was also being influenced by his involvement in the the new scene as it once again morphed in to a mid-week session for those who had been to Exodus and seen the future.

When performing 23 Hop, every aspect of his showmanship shined through - a fact that made it easy for Malik to focus his energy on it. As a result of his linguistic abilities he naturally adopted the role of MC during Exodus raves. The relationship he formed with the crowd was symbiotic, the energy that he spent was returned two-fold. It was Malik who coined Toronto’s first rave MC chants and engaged the the crowd at 318 Richmond which completed the true rave experience in Toronto.

His influences on the scene would be seen and heard for years to come. Think Dr. No, who adopted Malik’s MC and mixing mannerisms and openly named him as inspiration.

It was all in a day’s work for Malik, who was rumored to be a family man holding a 9-5 for the TTC.

But just like Malik’s new choice in music had made huge leaps in BPM, his DJ career was now permanently set to +8, a fact that would eventually cause him to question the path he had taken.

Thanks to Jimmy J for documenting this. When Malik X retired I felt the loss for many years after. His style and talent had such an impact on my life. Thanks to Malik for turning me onto the one and only Dr.No who would become another major influence and friend.

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