Sami Matar, Music Man
In March 2010, Sami Matar tossed and turned in bed nightly for nearly two weeks, wondering whether to accept a management deal with hip-hop mogul Pharrell Williams. For then-26-year-old Matar, securing a career making music was a fulfillment of his life's passion. So why was he finding it so difficult to answer his calling?
After he graduated from Aliso Viejo High School in 2001, a friend introduced Matar to rapper Warren G, stepbrother of Dr. Dre; soon, he produced his first track for Xzibit. Matar's background in and talent for classical composition distinguished him from the rest, helping him to climb up the ranks in the world of hip-hop, as he produced songs for Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and the Black Eyed Peas among other chart-topping artists. In March 2007, he retired from the scene after his best friend died in a car accident. The tragic event compelled Matar to soul search, which led him to revert to his Islamic roots.
Matar grew up in a Muslim household, but religion never played a central role in his life. But then he started attending the mosque on Fridays, the holy day for Muslims. One day, his elder brother, Nour, proposed an idea to Matar: build the first western-based, online, Muslim radio station. Called One Legacy Radio, it launched in November 2009 from a spare room at Nour's Irvine-based computer business. With extensive experience in audio production, Matar lends his time and energy to producing Islamic programs on such topics as health, family, civil rights and stories of Muslim converts.
But Matar's manager, Steve Morales, wanted him to return to producing tracks for the likes of Rick Ross, Rihanna and Kelly Rowland. And in December 2009, Morales offered Matar a deal to be managed by three-time Grammy Award winner and Billboard Magazine's Producer of the Decade, Pharrell Williams. But Matar, with a newfound spirituality, declined the enticing offer.
Though One Legacy Radio picked up steam quickly—with listeners tuning in from both coasts, Europe and Australia—a lack of funds caused the station to size down on its programming recently, and Matar had to find a way to make a living. He is now on the more halal route of producing music for video games, such as Star Wars and Splinter Cell, as well as songs for Syrian-American rapper and friend Omar Offendum. Matar lives in Irvine and spends most of his time at his favorite place in Orange County—his studio.
* * *
• "Besides the informants, Islamic Center of Irvine is a great community and support network." 2 Truman, Irvine, (949) 786-4264; icoi.net
• Salt Creek Beach "has a wonderful view and offers a great walk." 33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 923-2280; ocparks.com/saltcreekbeach.
• Zait and Zaatar: "The whole menu is great, but the sujok wrap and the cheese pies make my day." 510 N. Brookhurst St., Ste. 106, Anaheim, (714) 991-9996; zaitandzaatar.com.
• "The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Irvine Spectrum is my go-to coffee joint, other than Kean in Tustin. The usual for me is dark coffee with a shot of hazelnut." 71 Fortune Dr., Ste. 844, Irvine, (949) 453-1815; coffeebean.com.
• "I have to visit [Guitar Center] once a week. All my studio needs are handled here with my man Stew." 23811 El Toro Rd., Ste. A, Lake Forest, (949) 609-0055; guitarcenter.com.
• Bruxie's desserts "are from heaven. The strawberry-cheesecake waffle sandwich—wow." 292 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 633-3900; bruxie.com.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.