If hip-hop steers clear of the gangsta minstrel-show quagmire and continues to annex more and more of mainstream pop culture, sooner or later so many people will have grown up with it as the dominant music of their youth that nobody will still feel compelled to point out when a hip-hop artist isn't black. Until that utopia arrives, though, it's going to be hard to talk about A-TRAK without mentioning his white French-Canadian heritage--I mean, it's no small feat for a hip-hop DJ to excel when he comes from what's hands-down the least funky stock in North America. The trailer to his new DVD, Sunglasses Is a Must, includes some footage of him in middle school, cutting and scratching like a veteran; at age 15 he won the DMC championship, the DJ world's equivalent of an Olympic gold medal, and a few years later he landed a star position as Kanye West's tour DJ. His technique on the decks runs a little too deep into turntablist turf for my taste, but that doesn't mean he can't pick his tracks--his sets (like his new mix tape with GLC, Drive Slow) respect the folks on the dance floor even as they indulge the crate-digging trainspotters who are sure to crowd his booth. That's a good sign--the last thing a DJ should do is make you think too much.
The three DJs of Brooklyn collective THE RUB are definitely more interested in testing your ass-shaking abilities than stimulating your brain. Like their buds in Hollertronix, they're omnivores, aiming to find the points where hip-hop, rock, and regional club styles like Baltimore house and Brazilian favela funk all sync up. I'm sure you could attach some rosy global-village ideal to this endeavor, but that's sorta beside the point for the people sweating it out to MOP's thug anthem "Ante Up" over a bass-popping Queen break. If you only know the Rub from their "It's the Motherfucking Remix" comps, here's your chance to hear the real thing.
A-Trak headlines, the Rub are second, and Rhyme Scheme & Visual open. Sat 5/6, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12 in advance, $14 at the door.