Ill Communicator

Until this summer, DJ Mix Master Mike was virtually unknown. The SF turntablist had been sending Adam Yauch tapes for quite some time before the only Beastie who can scratch a record finally responded to the upstart's queries, and recruited him to sculpt a track for the B Boys' Hello Nasty and join them on tour. It's one of the smartest moves the boys have made since they name-checked Cézanne a decade ago, and, as an act of good old-fashioned boosterism, it just might make up for the gross error in judgment that was Luscious Jackson.

Mike is probably the best DJ/producer to arrive since DJ Shadow renovated hip hop by reemphasizing the DJ two years ago. "Shadow was doing it all alone," Mike says from the offices of his record label, Asphodel, in New York. "So, I knew I had to come out." Even if the B Boys track he appears on, "Three MC's and One DJ," comes with some of the chumpiest rhymes the band has ever clunked on wax, the Mix Master's performance--which includes putting his turntables through a wah-wah pedal--is one of the coolest moments on the record. And Mike, a 28-year-old who spent his Beastie boyhood engrossed in hip hop, break dancing, video games, horror flicks, and Ultraman comics, is a junk-culture savant who fits perfectly into the group's mess-thetic. Live, he re-writes their classics, adding breaks or splicing up hits like "Shake Your Rump," and continuously editing cuts on the new record by pulling in new sampled snippets out of a grab bag of sources, from Dizzy Gillespie to N.W.A.

Mike got into DJing at 15, when he saw DJ Grandmixer DST do an opening set at a Herbie Hancock show. "He looked like a space man to me," remembers the polite, soft-spoken Filipino-American, who shyly reports that he feels more adept conversing on record than on the phone. He left high school after his junior year and got involved in playing parties and weddings on the mobile DJ scene, until he met Richard Quiteuis, another Filipino kid just getting into mixing. Mike taught Quiteuis some of the tricks of the craft, and the two (renamed Mix Master and Q-Bert) spawned what is now a rising Northern California Asian-American DJ scene.

Q-Bert, Mike, and the rest of their collective, the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, went on to win nearly every DJ competition in the country until they were finally forced to "retire" from competing in DJing's Wimbledon, the DMC. A shitload of Asian DJs came up after me and Q-Bert," says Mike. Last year, Rhettmatic, of the mostly Filipino DJ team the Beat Junkies told the Asian-American hipster zine Giant Robot, "It's hard for Asians and Filipinos to get recognition and respect in hip hop. Asians have been stereotyped as good imitators and not good originators. I think the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and ourselves are making a difference."

Mike first tweaked the world outside the insular DJ community in 1995 with, "Terrorwrist (Beneath the Under)," from the groundbreaking turntablist compilation Return of the DJ Vol. 1. More a media critique than a hip-hop track, "Terror" mixed samples of kung fu flicks ("you're skill is extraordinary"), Eddie Murphy ("tell us something we don't know motherfucker"), J.J. Jackson, televised football, Marvin Gaye, and dozens of his hip-hop heroes, from Eric B. to the Beasties. But if "Terror" was hilarious media savagery, his just-released full-length debut, Anti-Theft Device (Asphodel), offers an escape into his own private hip-hop underground. Like the Shadow of '96's Entroducing... Mix Master strings samples together like a storyteller and punctuates the sonic narrative with spoken-word non sequiturs. This screws with the classic pop equation, and I imagine it'll screw up the ears of a few Beastie fans too. And I hope that's why the band brought him along.

 
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