Music News & Reviews

Since he was Kid Sensation he’s wanted to rap Steppenwolf. Now he’s about to take a magic carpet ride

When Xola Malik was a teenage protege to local hip hop icon Sir Mix-a-Lot he’d write raps to classic rock songs.

Mix-a-Lot gave the 14-year-old Malik the handle of Kid Sensation, and the young rapper went on to fame as successful artist.

Fast forward to a 2017 fund raiser where Malik met Glen Bui, a guitarist in the 1970s and ‘80s for the rock band Steppenwolf, whose biggest song, “Born to Be Wild,” has been used in a seemingly endless string of movies and advertisements.

Bui now leads Steppenwolf Revisited, one of the few bands licensed to perform the group’s music.

“We were both excited about one another,” Malik said of that night. “They didn’t know how big of a fan I was and I didn’t know they were fans.”

On Friday (Sept. 21), Malik will team up with Bui and the rest of his band at Tacoma’s Jazzbones for a night of each group’s originals, plus a few collaborations between the two.

Malik’s dream of rapping “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” will finally come true.

“This a collaboration 20 years in the making,” Malik said Wednesday, fresh off a plane from Ethiopia where he spent a week performing with Ethiopian singer Zeritu. “I was a huge Steppenwolf fan.”

Malik, 47, grew up in South Seattle. He now calls Tacoma home.

In his early days, he said, he would take pieces of “Magic Carpet Ride” and rap over it.

“I thought to myself, ‘This will never fly. They’ll sue the pants off of me if I try to release this.’ But, it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Run-DMC and Aerosmith showed with 1986’s “Walk This Way” that a rap mash-up of classic rock can be wildly successful and bring fresh air into a musical genre.

“We’re doing it for the love of the music and fans, to keep it alive,” Bui said Wednesday of why he still performs. But Bui doesn’t see the classic songs as stuck in time.

“I’ve always wanted to do some rap with those songs,” he said. But previous attempts didn’t work out.

Bui said evolution is part of music.

“We feed off the fans,” he said of Steppenwolf Revisited — Calissa Knox on keyboards, Steve Unger on bass, Bryan Knapp on drums and Dillon Smith and Tracey Bland on vocals.

“We never play the same song twice,” he said. “When we start out the songs they are original. But we go into improvisation.”

Malik and the group recorded “Magic Carpet Ride.” On Wednesday, they performed “Born to be Wild” for the first time at rehearsal.

“‘Born to be Wild’” Malike said. “You can’t get any bigger than that.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor


When: 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 21)

Where: Jazzbones, 2803 Sixth Ave. Tacoma

Tickets: $20