Posted: August 3rd, 2009 by Jimmy J

CKLN 88.1 consoleWell 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 1980s Malik began hosting a Ryerson University community radio show he called “Radio London.” If you set your dial to CKLN 88.1 on Saturdays from 6-8pm your ears were greeted by Malik’s smooth English accent proudly showcasing the new and old sounds of his hometown.

“Techno is happening right now in London like you wouldn’t believe and the show is called Radio London and that’s why I’m playing it. And I’m also playing rare groove, swing beat, and everything else – I’m trying to keep everybody happy.” – Malik X (19:27)

Here’s the earliest known recording of Malik on Radio London in 1989:

trance induced state Malik XMalik 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 volunteer gig. His dedication was apparent in the listening experience which rivaled mainstream radio but with content that was anything but. His broadcasts featured numerous Radio London bumpers and Malik X soundbites throughout, production qualities that were far the norm of community radio at the time. Of course, creating these samples was second nature to Malik, as behind the scenes he was producing his own music (tape cover left, more on this later). And unlike most mainstream radio DJs he actually knew how to mix, and mix very well. This skill became obvious when he overcame the challenge of mixing with broadcast turntables at the CKLN studios.

Behind the scenes Malik was also a spoken-word poet, so he had a wonderful way with words which provided a pleasant on-air demeanor. Even when tongue-twisted 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. His abilities with a microphone were well utilized for his genuine support of a tight-knit community that was the trusted voice of. He  always encouraged calls from listeners and discussed their comments on air.  He went beyond the call of duty in fund raising drives and constantly promoted local record stores by preaching the purchase of vinyl, rather than just dubbing cassette tapes. Malik was well known by friends for his spirituality made evident by his words and his ankh accessorized wardrobe. His listeners knew him for  subtle messages of wisdom and well-wishing because of shows that often contained his own PSAs.

“If you’re out there driving, please, ’cause I know a lot of people will be driving and also will be drinking – because the subways aren’t running and all that sort of stuff. If you’re going to do that, think again, because that’s bad news, alright?” – Malik X (43:00)

With his broadcast talents forming just one part of the many frequencies emitting 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.

the claremont queen street west

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 now fully synchronized with the techno surge in the UK. This was made possible because of hot-off-the-press vinyl sent directly from London contacts which he then showcased on a segment of his show called Air Witness News. His broadcasts were a pre-rave staple within the tight-knit community and would create positive momentum for the event at 318 Richmond Street West which occurred a few hours later. Sure, the format change alienated the portion of his audience looking for a more mellow mix – but for every listener he lost two new rave seeking listeners set their dials to 88.1.

His remaining Wednesday residency at the Cameron House was also being influenced by his involvement in the new scene as it once again morphed in to a mid-week mellow-out session for those who had been to Exodus and seen the future.

When performing at 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.  He coined Toronto’s first rave MC chants which completed the true rave experience in Toronto. His impact on the scene would be seen and heard for years to come. Think Dr. No, who was influenced by Malik’s MC and mixing mannerisms and openly named him as inspiration.

With his main gig rumored to be a 9-5 for the TTC, Malik was moonlighting solely for his love of music. But just like his tracks had made leaps in BPM, his DJ career was now also set to +8 and the scene was evolving even faster. As a result he started to question the path he was on with regards to his role in Toronto raving.

UPDATE 4/16: 7 years after we published this article we made contact with Malik. Get the update and listen to his new mixes here.

Here’s a rare and raw interview with Malik from 2000. Thanks to Ondine Hayes for sharing footage from her forthcoming documentary: The Day I Found the Music: My Raveolution.

15 Responses to “The Malik X Factor”

  1. gd Says:

    I remember Malik and Radio London well. It was a great radio program that I made sure to listen to Saturday nights. Thanks for writing this article.

  2. castingoutloud Says:

    Nice one. Puckah! Good choons good choons…
    Thanks Jimmy J

  3. darrensmooth Says:

    that tranced induced state…could you upload some of those tunes? His stuff was really unique

  4. Eugenia Says:

    Where is Malik now?

  5. JimmyJ Says:

    That question has plagued man kind for some time now. Hopefully he’ll stumble across these pages some day and contact us, we would love to touch base with him, do an interview him and get his feedback.

  6. Bush Says:

    I remember this tape well. Of course, he did give me a credit on the tape, but that wasn’t the only reason I cherished it.
    If I recall correctly, I believe he gave it to me the night he also took the “anc” necklace from around his neck and gave it to me when I was mashed up with my head between my legs at 318 Richmond (by the bottom of those stairs at the front entrance, leading to the hidden basement).

    Funny thing is, I now have the anc tattooed on my inside forearm.
    Amazing the things that affect you at certain times in your life.

    Everyone almost locked me in the club when they left (7a.m. and bright outside) and I guess he saw me down there and totally shit canned. “Oh, it’s Bush mate…he’s still in there! he said.
    After about 5 minutes to coax me up from the state I was in, he said “here Bush, take this mate, it’ll give you life!”
    I was suddenly alive and astounded that he took it off and put it around my neck. He says “It’s the Egyption symbol of eternal life! wear it well Bush. Here’s one of my boom tapes for you too mate!” “Read the shout outs later… I’m putting it in your pocket.”
    Years later, I figured out that (the anc) actually symbolizes the Egyptian symbol for Life, not eternal life, but I got the point. I wore that thing for years raving and partying.
    He was a genuine great guy and an honest soul and yet, never left a buddy in the dark. No pun intended.
    It’s too bad he vanished. Along with that tape and that Anc!

    I think we’ll see him again someday. The anc is now on my arm and I just saw that tape again on your site. They do say good things come in threes! 🙂

    Hope you’re living well Malik!
    Thanks for the memories and for picking me up that day my friend!


  7. Tim Says:

    Hi there. I just celebrated my one year rave anniversary and as such I was inspired to study the history of rave in my hometown. Stumbled across your website and I was truly inspired by all of the things here. After some research I found out that the 23 Hop is now a fucking parking lot, seriously wtf?!.

    Ive also started trying to contact all of the old fucks I know in an attempt to locate or contact this Malik X character but to no avail. I was wondering if there are any leads you could share with me.

    I know I probably seem waaaaay to gung ho about all this shit, but I feel as though I should personally thank him for all he has contributed to making the last year of my life the best so far.

    Cheers, Tim.

  8. jimmyj Says:

    Hey Tim,

    Thanks for the comments, good to know people are reading, listening and enjoying – old schoolers and new schoolers alike.

    Worry not, your appreciation will get to Malik eventually….the word about this site is spreading quickly and he’ll definitely read your words one day.

  9. T_Step Says:

    I thought Radio London was 6pm-8pm . . . on saturday nights . . .

    Thank you for the recordings . . . I remember listening to them and am grateful to hear them again. It was the best of times . . .


  10. jimmyj Says:

    you could be right…most of the tapes he went over his regular time it was hard to figure out what the actual time slot was…but i don’t believe i’ve stumbled on a tape where the time is ever announced to be in the 6 o’clock range.

  11. sofree roots Says:

    oh my, MALIK!!!!

    i was listenin to Nik Redman’s AfroTransit on CKLN tonite (thu 5-7pm) and Soul to Soul’s Back to Life came on. i shivered as i remembered the very first time i heard this song and band – Malik playing it at the Lizard Lounge. this song hit me in places i didn’t know i had so hard i was in tears dancin my ass off to it, that time and many times since. so tonite, i searched FB for malik – nada – then googled him, and here i am (

    very soon after that nite at the Lizard Lounge, i was listenin to Malik’s Radio London religiously, then started going to the Cameron on Wed nites for his acid jazz and rare groove sessions. a bunch of us danced there till the sweat was pourin off us into the wees on wed nites for FIVE YEARS! i did attend some of the other nites and clubs, but to me, and us, Malik was the Cameron’s… and rare groove was his specialty!

    i have some of his tapes. i’m unpacking right now but will look for them and put them aside. wd be nice to share them!

    we all grew close over those years, just dancin and apprecialovin the groove, the way he could handle a crowd, drive us wild, till we were shouting “murderah”! as he’d play one more boom track! sometimes we had to just scream to cope with the energy movin thro us! some craaaaziness happened on that dance floor – remember dean and howard leapin across the room and dancin horizontally??!!!

    i found my self, my riddim, my groove, my body, my freedom, my expression in that room. thank u Malik for givin us the best of yur musical JahWorks! i would SOOOOO enjoy knowin what yur up to now, given what an inspired, creative, cuttin edge and healin Kingman u were back then!

    i say Kingman cuz Malik got into Rastafari and reggae in the later Cameron years and ended many an incredible nite with a deep reggae session.

    by far, the best of times!


  12. T_Step Says:

    Jimmy Jam the Home Run Champ (JJTHRC),

    Listening to these sessions (especially the Clash of the Techno series) it is clear that Shannon had a show from 8-10PM on Saturday nights and so this would mean that Radio London was from 6-8PM.

    The other dimension in this fantastic history that you and community have created is that this way of documenting our history will be lost. We lived in the pre-digital mobile age and when digital cameras were not pervasive, video cameras were expensive and hard to own for the relatively young – so this piecing together of history through your memories – this is something that will happen less and less of as the younger peeps will just refer to there digital videos, pics, FB timelines . . .

    I have revisited this after nearly 20 months and just wanted to big you and the Cru up again. Fantastic result, effort and approach.

    You reminded the T_Step of the days when we all were innocent to learn, have fun, all at the same time . . .



  13. JJTHRC Says:

    yup yup t_step! yessir you’re correct! I edited the write-up after your last visit…good ear! Ahhhh the last days of analogue/ youth tunning in to radio – pre www a magical time indeed.

    Although we might luck out – there’s a video floating around somewhere!

    Thanks sir, check back in at least once a year!

  14. Malik X Says:

    Thanks for your kind words, what an era, what a time, what a feeling!!

  15. Ecru Says:

    I first heard Malik play upstairs at Sneaky Dee’s (no, actually, at a house party, then Sneaky Dee’s). From the start, his music was my only drug.

Leave a Reply

We've got 23 Hop Replicas and T-Shirts!