For at least a decade, the name Malik X has been synonymous with mystery. It’s as though the X itself was representative of an unsolvable equation. And, of course, the greatest legends are always fueled by rumors – I had heard my fair share as to where he was and what he was up to.
You see, back in 1991 whether he was coming at you via radio waves or a venue’s sound system, his community was very tuned in. He was a pivotal figure in the Toronto after-hours scene – especially during the earliest days of Toronto rave. He was one of its biggest promotional forces. In a city that had no idea what a rave even was, no one spread the word faster. And no one spread the music faster, as his collection of techno was unparalleled. He had developed a massive following and the highest respect from his peers. He was even producing his own music.
He achieved everything that DJs typically only dream about. And then he quit.
In November of 1991, Malik shocked Toronto’s original ravers by announcing he was packing in his DJ career. He made a final appearance at what also turned out to be Exodus’ final event at 23 Hop in 1992. He kept his radio show going for a period of time, giving Dr. No a 30-minute time slot dubbed, “The Techno Lab.” While the doctor continued to showcase techno, it seemed as though Malik was slowly phasing himself out and distancing himself from the scene. By the mid-’90s – with the Toronto rave scene exploding – his whereabouts were unknown. In the second issue of The Communic8r we published an article titled, “Where in the World is Malik X?,” asking him to get in touch. He never did and the mystery continued to grow.
Then around 1997, while working at Industry, I made contact. Well, a friend of his contacted me. Apparently word had got out that I was sitting on a Malik tape collection and his friend wanted some recordings to give to Malik for his birthday. It was an honor to make a pile of tapes for a man who often gave his music away to friends. And the cool part was that I even had a tape where Dr. No wished him a happy birthday.
A few weeks later I got a message from Malik on my answering machine thanking me for the trip down memory lane. He described the tapes as, “a real ear-opener.” It was so cool I ran out to Radio Shack to purchase a “telephone pick-up” mic to record it to my computer. The gadget was basically a mic mounted on a a suction cup you stuck to the back of the telephone. Sadly, the computer crashed soon afterwards and I lost it. So I couldn’t really prove to anyone it ever happened.
Malik’s friend had mentioned he wasn’t DJing anymore but said he was performing spoken word. I went to see him above the Senator restaurant near Yonge & Dundas. I shook his hand at the end of the performance, but he was way too distracted to have a conversation. Apparently he went on to write two books of poetry and produce numerous jazz poetry discs.
In and around the new millennium he made some sporadic DJ appearances and gave an on-camera interview. Then he vanished yet again. But now in the age of the internet, where everyone is usually just a few clicks away, the mystery grew exponentially as he continued to fly under the radar.
Needless to say, when The Communic8r was re-born online I had always hoped Malik would catch wind of it. His community-style approach was the main inspiration behind the entire project. Maybe I’d hear from him one day. Heck, maybe he’d make a return to DJing for a Boomin’ Reunion? (Hey, I can dream…)
Well, I’m happy to report: seven years after launching this site – he reached out. Our email exchange has been brief but I know he’s appreciative of this website and all the kind words from our community. And while most of the mystery remains – the important part is that he’s still out there and still making music. And of course, still sharing it.
He sent me this 13-track volume – under his pseudonym, DJ Saville Rowe, but, as he explains, “all from the mind of Malik X.” And, he was sure to mention, “I just do it for fun, no DJ-ing, but they are yours to do with entirely as you wish.”
UPDATE 5/16: Malik mentioned he’d be sending us mixes every so often. So here’s another installment of his Communic8r HiFi Alkali House Mixes. As the man Malik says, “Music to make a grown man cry.”
UPDATE 7/16: A brand new broadcast from the past produced by the man himself. It will all make sense when you listen…I’ve seen the future…