Amtrak's Metroliner? Never mind that. These days, the ultimate Philly-to-New York connection is Cosmo Baker — that is, when he's doing his DJ thing on the Right Coast (more on that later). Instead, Remix finds him more than 2,500 miles away and sleep deprived at San Diego's California Sound and Lighting (CSL). It's 9:30 a.m., but only a few hours earlier, and just minutes from CSL, he was putting it down in two different rooms at Aubergine, a popular nightclub.
Wisely, Baker's friend Joe leaves to hunt down some cups of joe. But taco-shop coffee from across the street? Fortunately, Baker is naturally awakened by the lure of understock — boxes of vinyl marked “99 cents.” “That's a full-on endeavor if you decide to get your fingers dirty,” he says.
However, Baker mostly eyes what's along the store's walls. “Whenever I see a stack of white labels, I have a tendency to gravitate toward that first and foremost because you never know,” he says, pulling records and heading to CSL's listening station. He first cues something “break-y and moving” that's to his liking.
“Sometimes these up-tempo songs are good to use as a bridge — kind of like filler — because lots of times during a set, I'll go from 100 beats per minute to 130 over the course of an hour and a half.” The uncredited vinyl at CSL prompts him to wax nostalgic: “I've had good luck with white labels and ended up with some crazy, out-there sounds.”
Luck and certainly his skills go hand in hand, it seems. Back home in Brooklyn, the Philly-born-and-bred Baker and his boys, DJ Ayres and DJ Eleven, put those “out-there sounds” to good use through performance and production. Together, the three are known as The Rub, literally a groove collective, as well as the name for arguably the hypest party in the five boroughs. Every first Saturday, The Rub inhabits Southpaw, a dive in Park Slope, near Baker's neighborhood. By most accounts, the night consistently sends crowds out of their minds for six sweat-soaked hours. Baker says it's an alternative to the stagnant club scene in Manhattan, minus the VIP and bottle-service aspects to complicate or separate.
When the party's over, it pretty much starts all over again thanks to a steady stream of solo CDs and The Rub Remixes (Smelly Fatso), The Rub's collaborative vinyl series that's now up to its sixth hip-hop-skewing edition. These popular genre blends get shaken and stirred with more ingredients than a caipirinha, batida and mojito combined. Baker's “Stunt 101,” pairing G-Unit and Wu-Tang, is a mashed-up marvel moment from The Rub Remixes, Vol. 1: Club Shit EP (Smelly Fatso, 2005). Baker's XXXplosive Tour mix CD with Pase Rock and Spank Rock, Hip House 1 and 2 (with Ayres) and the slow-jam comps Love Break 1 and 2 confirm Baker's crate-digging sensibilities and sick mastery of tempo. Next up for him is The Gold Standard CD series, mixing choice cuts from a single artist (on deck: James Brown, and later, the Mizell Brothers). Also, there's an XXXplosive sequel planned, and then it's back to his roots with a Philly compilation CD.
Meanwhile, The Rub slate includes touring and a Best Of series, spotlighting hip-hop, house, dancehall and reggae. That eclectic approach should surprise no one because what started as a birthday party for Ayres in the summer of 2002 has evolved into The Rub's cheeky, streetwise sound and vision.
“It was structured as an outlet to play stuff that was outside the comfort zone — for DJs to stretch out and play things they normally don't,” Baker says. And while classics and hip-hop remain fundamental to The Rub's repertoire, their alternative spirit prevails. “We try to fit all sorts of provocative sounds and styles into the course of one evening and definitely don't dumb down the music for the masses.”
DJ BANG (AKA DERRICK CARTER)
“White Lightning EP” (Peaches)
This is smokin' — a house remix of Robin Thicke's “Wanna Love You.” It's nice, with a jackin' feel. Yeah, this is groovy, man. He's good and not so forced with his singing. Some people try to overcompensate.
“Funky City (Crump Daddy Club Mix)” (Dust Traxx)
This a Harrison Crump joint — that crazy-hard Chicago steez, man. This is nothing but aggression — that real jackin' shit. I got a sweet spot for Chicago house.
Transylvanian Gypsy Funk EP,“Spudda Dudda Doo” (Blue Label)
This is another funky, dubby track. There are a lot of sweeping filters with a really serious breakdown and build-up in the middle. The drum programming is really tight. If your drums are too loose, I can't mess with you — unless your name is J Dilla.
“Polo Club Part 1 (Nick Chacona & Anthony Mansfield remix)” (Om)
Oh, this is groovy. There's nothing like a good bass line that, like, once you hear it, it just hits you. This is that dubby disco and very cool. After buying records for so many years, you can put a needle on a record, and within five seconds know if a record will do it for you.
HOLLIS P. MONROE FEAT. ETTA JAMES
“This Is Goodbye (Deeper Mix)” (Renaissance Infinity)
Oh, Hollis P. Monroe. He's from Philadelphia. Once that bass line comes in, that milky bass line, it's a wrap. Then the Etta vocals come in. This is perfect end-of-the-night deep house. Philadelphia strikes again!
PLATINUM PIED PIPERS
Triple P Instrumentals(Ubiquity)
When this album came out, it was one of my favorites. All the DJ tools — instrumentals and a cappellas — I'm always in tune with that. Wajeed is stellar. His production is just ridiculous. “The Bounce” is a hot beat.
JESSE ROSE & SINDEN
“Me Mobile” (Made to Play)
This has some reggae vocals, and there's always a place for dropping reggae vocals. If it's fast like this, it blends in with dance music because there's a lot of dancehall out there that's in the 120 to 130 bpm range.
Sinden EP, “Spaces”(Loungin')
Bang — out of the gate, really good drum programming and a phat bass line. This is tough as hell with the male vocal. It's almost like a broken-beat thing and very groovy, very jazzy. The dub is hittin' too.
TRAE FEAT. YOUNG JOC
“In the Hood” (Rap-a-Lot)
Trae's the shit. He's definitely one of the dudes from Texas who's doing it bigger than anybody. His last album was ridiculously good. I'm not really a Young Joc fan, but sometimes when you put an MC that's not as good with one that's better, he steps up his game.
The Acapellas You Never Got! Volume 3(white label)
Tupac and Biggie — you can't say much more than that. The “Holler if You Hear Me” a cappella — that's serious. One of the things I always look for is a cappellas. You can say, “Hey, I'll take this Southern hip-hop record and remix it with a house beat” and flip it like that.
California Sound & Lighting; 1919 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA; (800) 4-NEWSOUND or (619) 358-9788;www.calsound.com