If you were looking for evidence of DJ Z-Trip's extensive roots in underground hip-hop on Uneasy Listening Volume 1, his 2001 mix-tape collaboration with DJ P, you had to pay close attention. But it was there: though the Phoenix turntablist was as eager as his fellow mashup pioneers to deconstruct world-famous schlock like Phil Collins, in the process he'd mix in an indie-rap luminary such as Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Shifting Gears (Hollywood) is where Z-Trip comes clean--in more ways than one. After a year of unsuccessfully petitioning for sampling rights, he's gone legit, using mostly unrecognizable sources to craft beats for top-notch guest MCs like Lyrics Born and Aceyalone. The result is like watching a foulmouthed comic adapting to a prime-time sitcom; when he slips a prominent Jethro Tull sample underneath Busdriver, he could be Redd Foxx raising an eyebrow to share a double entendre with the TV audience. Shifting Gears nods enthusiastically toward hip-hop tradition--not just the old school's loose-limbed party vibe, but the omnivorous approach to musical styles that took hold in the middle school years.
Black Sheep's 1991 debut, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, was among the last landmarks of those middle school years, a playful affair even by the standards of fellow Native Tongues crews De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Though the follow-up, Non-Fiction, was a sodden affair even by the standards of the sophomore slump, the tracks that have surfaced from their latest album, 8WM, are animated enough that one hopes it'll escape the fate of their third disc, The Tragedy of Almost, which remains unreleased. Z-Trip headlines, Black Sheep plays second, and DJ Goldenchyld opens. Wed 8/31, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $18.50-$20, 18+.