One of the more underrated producers and DJs in the West Coast underground, KutMasta Kurt initially made his name working with Kool Keith, during which time he first donned his trademark Mexican wrestling mask. Kurt (b. Kurt Matlin) had been DJing in the Bay Area since the mid-'80s, getting his start as a teenager on a Santa Cruz community radio station. In 1988, he moved on to the Stanford University college station, and also mixed live at parties around the University of California-Santa Cruz campus. As his reputation grew, local MCs began to approach him about producing tracks, and he bought some basic studio equipment and taught himself to use it. After a few remixes and small independent releases, Kurt's friendship with the groundbreaking, underappreciated Ultramagnetic MC's paid off when, in 1994, ex-leader Kool Keith tapped Kurt to handle DJ and production duties for his new solo career. Kurt produced a couple of tracks on Keith's landmark Dr. Octagon album, but their first full project together was 1997's Sex Style, the first album released under Keith's own name. Kurt also helmed Keith's album as Dr. Dooom, 1999's First Come, First Served, and 2000's Matthew.
By the time Matthew was released, Kurt had begun to build his own career apart from Keith. He provided remixes for the likes of the Beastie Boys, Planet Asia, Rasco, DJ Spooky, Luscious Jackson, Buffalo Daughter, and Blackalicious, among others. He also formed his own label, Threshold, and in 2000 released the full-length album KutMasta Kurt Presents: Masters of Illusion, a collaborative project that featured Kool Keith and underground MC Motion Man. His relationship with Keith was fraying, however, partly because of a false rumor that Keith was missing gigs because he'd been institutionalized. Keith eventually fired him, but Kurt's career stayed in good shape thanks to his production on Dilated Peoples' 2000 breakthrough single, Work the Angles. He soon went on to work with Hieroglyphics members Souls of Mischief and Pep Love, and did a high-profile remix of nu-metal band Linkin Park's single In the End in 2001. That same year, he also produced Motion Man's well-received solo debut, Clearing the Field. Kurt was a busy man in 2004, releasing Diesel Truckers with his man Keith and his own, career-spanning compilation Redneck Games. ~ Steve Huey
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