Migas has at least one killer
date night sorted for you
this month: Dinner and a
Mixtape, the brainchild of New York
DJ Neil Armstrong.
The concept began with music,
the consummate turntablist
earning his underground reputation
churning out street-level mixtapes
featuring an eclectic range of
styles largely revolving around New
York’s native hip-hop roots. His
skills behind the decks eventually
landed him a stint as Jay-Z’s tour DJ,
spinning for the magnate around
North America, Europe and Africa.
All that travel ignited in Mr
Armstrong a passion for food.
In 2013 he launched Dinner and
a Mixtape, a twist on the classic
dinner-and-a-film date night where
he prepares a special mixtape
and partners with a foodie-friendly
restaurant for a one-off menu. Last
May, he celebrated a major career
milestone: having a burrito, The
Armstrong, named after him for an
event in Orange County.
In Beijing Armstrong is partnering with Migas, who’ll line up a
smorgasbord of à la carte items
from Buena Onda – a Peruvian
pop-up by new 'culinary incubator' Hatchery – along with Latin, Spanish and fusion bites from La Social,
Migas, Traitor Zhou’s, Cacha Cacha and Palms LA.
Afterwards, he’ll migrate to the
Migas rooftop for the post-meal
We talked to Neil
Armstrong about the
art of the mixtape,
good eats and
How did you first get
the idea for Dinner
and a Mixtape?
Before I got to work
as Jay-Z’s tour DJ,
my thing was making mixtapes. I
got known in particular for a series
called Original, which explores the
DNA of hip-hop music, weaving back
and forth between hip-hop songs
and the songs that were sampled to
make them. I still make mixtapes to
this day, but the musical landscape
has changed drastically from
when I started in 2001. Back in
the day, I could do a mixtape party
at a nightclub, and the music
matched. Today, however, what I
do on my mixtapes is for a more 'sophisticated' crowd. As I’ve gotten
older my tastes have changed, and
they aren’t really appropriate for the
average club night.
In the meantime,
over the last six years
or so, I’ve become
a big-time foodie.
Because of all my
travels, I’ve had the
opportunity to eat
some crazy food, by
anyway, like turtle
soup and horse
sashimi in Japan and rabbit heads in
Chengdu. This love of eating spurred
an interest in cooking, learning how
to turn ingredients into works of
culinary art. I’ve been lucky to have
learned from some amazing chefs,
and of course the Food Network is
always on in my house.
Back on the DJ-ing side of things,
the mixtapes I was making were
no longer appropriate for the club
scene, but the music I play is
perfect for dinner. People aren’t
trying to jump around, they just
need something nice to groove to,
a soundtrack for the experience.
So I reached out to friends who
own restaurants and do interesting
dishes. Thus was born Dinner and
a Mixtape, combining two things
I love the most: eats and beats.
The food feeds the body, and the
music feeds the soul. At least one
of the dishes for the night is usually
just served that one time, so for a
fan of the restaurant it makes it a
must-join night. I couple this with a
new mixtape that hasn’t been heard
yet, so the music is a first-time
experience as well.
What is the vibe of the music you play while people are eating?
Each event is unique because every one has both different food and different music. My mixtapes are all across the musical spectrum, so depending on which event you attend, you will get a completely different vibe. Some of my mixtapes are all rock songs, some are all classic hip-hop, some are electronic music.
Do you do much research on
local cuisine before these
events or is the pairing more
Usually my meals are planned with
the restaurant, but it really depends
from restaurant to restaurant. I’m
not quite sure what we will be doing
out here at our spot in Beijing.
Usually the first time I get to taste
the food is the same time that the
Where else have you done
Dinner and a Mixtape? How does
the music change from city
I’ve done these events
internationally and all across the
US: Toronto, Hong Kong , Manila,
New York to LA and seventeen other
cities in between. I did one in New
Jersey and Brooklyn with Dale Talde
of Top Chef fame, and did one at
Pot in LA with the chef who started
the whole food truck craze, Roy
Choi. In Hong Kong we did our event
at Ronin with Matt Abergel. The
musical component doesn’t shift
from location to location, music
is a universal language. It doesn’t
matter where the actual location of
the event is.
Do you have much experience
with China or Chinese food?
I’ve been fortunate to have been
to China many times, and I’ve had lots of local cuisine and of
course love it. Very different from
How have you found new
ways to innovate and market
'the mixtape', as it’s gone
from an underground to a
One of the unique ways I do Dinner
and a Mixtape is by delivering the
music via USB cassette. It keeps
that feeling of nostalgia for those
who used to make our homemade
mixtapes, but updates it for 2016.
Every attendee gets to take one
home, bringing the experience back
What have been some of your
other career highs?
I’ve gotten to perform at Madison
Square Garden a bunch of times,
that’s probably a personal highlight
of mine. DJ-ing at Glastonbury,
backing up Jay. I even got to be in a
Star Wars commercial with Snoop
Dogg and Han Solo. That would be
my favourite thing I’ve ever had the
opportunity to do.