Planet of the Tapes

Words by Peter Relic Photos by Grant Cornett

Beyond the inherent fragility of a strip of magnetic tape housed in crushable plastic, there’s a beauty to old cassettes as seductive for hip hop fetishists as a vintage Krylon can collection. The cassettes in this photo essay are a selection from the hundreds of mixtapes, beat tapes, radio shows, club sets, demos, rough mixes, answering machine messages and home jam sessions created by the producer, DJ and record collector Matt Dike between 1981 and 1989. They are windows into a creative soul.

Born in 1961 in West Nyack, New York, Dike arrived in Los Angeles in 1980. He DJ’ed at underground LA clubs Nairobi Room, Rhythm Lounge, and Power Tools, becoming a key player in West Coast hip hop’s formative years. After co-founding record label Delicious Vinyl in 1987, Dike co-produced chart-smashers “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina” for Tone-Loc, and “Bust A Move” for Young MC. Dike then lent his sampling skills to Beastie Boys’ sophomore opus Paul’s Boutique (Capitol, 1989). Initially a commercial flop, Paul’s Boutique has been exonerated by time into lasting classic status. The album happens to be the last major release bearing Matt Dike’s production credit.

If there was a TV show called “Hip Hop Hoarders,” a putative Matt Dike episode would be essential viewing. His record collection — so voluminous that he once received a letter from the city threatening eviction due to his buckling floors — is well over half a million unorganized pieces. His cassettes represent a peculiar distillation of that vinyl cache.

A sensible assumption would be that as a hip hop producer from the 1980s, Dike’s focus was classic beats and breaks. A listen to his personal mixtapes proves him an omnivore for whom the prog-metal fantasias of Uriah Heep and the bumbling cowboy spiels of Jerry Jeff Walker were just as compelling as Bohannon breaks and Sly Stone grooves.

The names Dike gave his tapes — CLEVA TREVA, JAMMYS + JIMBOS, MAGICIAN’S BIRTHDAY, GET COLD SOUPED — reflect his sense of humor, as well as his apparent inability to keep shit organized. His idiosyncratic labeling technique offers significant insight if incomplete information about each cassette’s content.

Time has turned Matt Dike’s scrappy tape collection into a gallery- worthy series of objets d’art. Borne of an era when a brand was still strictly something done with a hot poker to a cow’s ass, Dike worked a mission statement he has no trouble articulating today: “I just wanted to have as much fun as possible!”

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