Appreciation continues to pour in online for producer/DJ Matt Dike, who died last week after a brief illness, as first reported on DeliciousVinyl.com. He was 55 years old. The prolific producer was behind some of the most influential hip-hop tracks in history, helping put L.A. on the map for rap. But for many Angelenos, it was his DJ work in L.A. clubs that was most formative.
Matt Dike was a frequent boldface name in L.A. Weekly's LA Dee Da column back in his heyday. So much so that in the late ’80s when I started reading it as a kid (and later, as a teen, interning for the gal who wrote it), I knew and respected what he did and represented, even though I didn't know him. L.A. nightlife — forged by party promoters, DJs and the blooming grooves of early hip-hop — was exciting and enticing like never before as the ’80s came to a close. The scene was like punk rock — expressive, rebellious and body-rockin’, and the gatherings provided an organic contrast to Hollywood's after-dark swank pits like the Roxbury (yeah, that SNL skit started somewhere), China Club and the like.
In those days, the coolest clubs in this town attracted celebrities just like the fancy hot spots, but they were never self-conscious about who came out. These were the places the stars went to escape. To chill. To party. It really was about having a good time, connecting and celebrating life with great music as the driving force, and there was no segregation based on race, age, sexuality or even music. Though I never got to see Dike spin (that I remember), talking to friends who did, it’s clear that his mixes at clubs like Rhythm Lounge and Power Tools, and later Enter the Dragon, were transcendent — total precursors to the genre-blender turntablists who came after him, all of whom followed his lead, melding faithful old-school jams, break-beats and classic rock with newer R&B and rap.
Matt Dike was “larger than life, elusive yet accessible, the charmingly charismatic king of cool who defined the L.A. scene throughout the ’80s and early ’90s,” Pamela Turbov, his partner at Enter the Dragon, tells me. Everyone I've spoken with about him agrees. He opened a lot of minds, shook a lot of asses and was the definition of taste maker.
Reminiscing with Mike Ross, who created the music label Delicious Vinyl with Dike, it's clear that the music man's legacy lives on, too. Ross and Fred Sutherland (Fred 62) opened Delicious Pizza in 2015, first on West Adams and later on Sunset Boulevard, in the spirit of what he started with his DJ pal and label comrade. He says the music events at both locations have a similar energy to the events they did together in the early days. And turns out the Weekly was as impactful for Dike and Ross as it was for young readers like me in L.A.
“The Weekly's Belissa Cohen was the first to write about us and the clubs in her column,” he recalls of LA Dee Da’s last writer. “She was turned on early to Matt, back when he DJ'd the Rhythm Lounge, and she wrote about Power Tools first, and then the label. But she had some kind of bad run-in with Tone-Loc one night at a club, and I think that might have been it.”
Of course, by then Ross and Dike's label didn't need local press for exposure. They were internationally successful soon after launching Delicious Vinyl in 1987. Loc’s Loc-ed After Dark, put them on the map with infectious singles “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina,” the video of which starred another departed L.A. legend and frequent LA Dee Da boldface name, Sean DeLear (pictured above) as “Sheena the Man.”
After more success with Young MC (“Bust a Move”) and work with revered rap acts such as Pharcyde and Mellowman Ace, Dike had a hand and ear in what many critics (including me) consider the best Beastie Boys recording of all time. Produced by The Dust Brothers and Dike, Paul's Boutique was a smorgasbord of disparate samples and weird, wondrous beats that enveloped the listener in so many intricate soundscapes, you'd get lost if it wasn't for the boys themselves busting out their equally snazzy rhymes and distinctive delivery throughout. The layers, textures, hues, moods, snippets and references make this record a true cultural collage, and it still holds up.
Dike stepped away from Delicious Vinyl fairly soon after its inception, and Mike's brother, Rick, got more involved. Though Dike was living a rather reclusive life in Echo Park before his death, his influence was never forgotten, and it won't be in death either. As Rick Ross tells me, “He is part of the DNA of Delicious Vinyl.” He likens what his brother and Dike created as “the golden era of hip-hop.”
“Matt always knew the right song to play at the right time,” Mike Ross says. “He could take the party to another level with his selections. We created Delicious Vinyl as an extension of that. Just sharing what we thought was cool with others. It's sounds simple, but that's really it.”
“These two guys finding each other at the Impact Record Pool on Crenshaw Boulevard in 1982 was the start of an alternative hip-hop universe on the West Coast that would bring a lot of fun and flavor to the music world,” Rick adds. “With Delicious Pizza, we want to continue that experience by bringing people together with music, food and community. “
The Ross brothers tell me they are planning a celebration of Dike’s life at Delicious Pizza in April for friends, but those who want to pay homage to what Dike helped create may just want to pop by one of the restaurants for a slice before that. Mike says their monthly Sunday dancehall, new roots, dub event at the West Adams location, Boomyard, captures the energy and magic of the old days (he started an offshoot label featuring artists played there called Delicious Vinyl Island). There's also a new hip-hop night run by rapper Hannah Ayers bi-monthly Tuesdays called Burger & Friends at the Sunset space.
In the meantime, flashback old-school style in the comfort of your own home with a Dike-inspired playlist Mike Ross provided exclusively for L.A. Weekly, repping his old partner and pal's favorite cuts from his early days behind the decks. I've added an additional list featuring his Delicious Vinyl stuff and more. It's the best way to honor a man who loved music and sharing it the way Dike did.
Rest in beats, Matt Dike.
Matt Dike Power Tools–era playlist by Mike Ross
Back It On Up! — Chuck Brown
Saturday Night — Schooly D
The DMX Will Rock — Davy DMX
You Gotta Believe (Inst) — Love Bug Starski
Hip Hop Be Bop — Man Parrish
Cold Blooded — Rick James
Black Dog — Led Zeppelin
All Right Now — Free
She’s Crafty — Beastie Boys
Party Time — Kurtis Blow
Push Push (In the Bush) — Claire Hicks & Love Exchange
Sanctified Lady — Marvin Gaye
Release Yourself — Aleem
Additional playlist by #LinainLA
Wild Thing — Tone- Loc
Funk Cold Medina — Tone- Loc
I Come Off — Young MC
Bust a Move — Young MC
Passing Me By — Pharcyde
Ya Mama — Pharcyde
Cali's All That — Def Jef
Black to the Future — Def Jef
The Candy Song — Masters of Reality
Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun — Beastie Boys
Hey Ladies — Beastie Boys
Listen on Spotify here: