There was a moment in the late nineties, heading into the aughties, when Pharoahe Monch was featured on major-motion-picture soundtracks. Jurassic 5 was in the charts, and a generation of MCs weaned on The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest landed major-label record deals. It’s not only because of these cultural occurrences that SoCal’s DJ Babu has been able to hit the road with nothing more than a few crates of records and two turntables, but it obviously didn’t hurt. His time in Dilated Peoples, a trio signed to Capitol Records for its 2000 debut full-length “The Platform,” exposed his work in a way that may not have been possible a decade earlier. By the time that first Dilated disc was released, Babu had been in the game for about ten years, first gaining notoriety as part of the Beat Junkies crew. Releasing three cobbled-together albums worth of productions, each track featuring a notable underground MC, found highlights with folks like Afu Ra, Choclair and Quasimoto gripping the mic for just about three minutes apiece. With a formulaic mixtape feel, those Beat Junkies’ albums weren’t poised to perch atop charts. But by the time Babu and Dilated Peoples churned out the “Third Degree” single in 1997, with production from the Alchemist, there was enough aboveground acceptance of hip-hop for acts eyeing the past to have mass appeal. Of course, with the disc’s instrumental side as engaging as the vocal cuts, Dilated had little left to prove. The four albums Babu issued alongside Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience, with a new disc reportedly on the way, bankrolled a career of beat mining as exhibited on the DJs “Super Duck Breaks,” “Duck Season” and “Beat Tape” excursions. That sprawling backlog of work is set to be displayed for dance-floor enthusiasts, holding everyone over just long enough to get a new Dilated disc out. (Dave Cantor)
June 22 at the Shrine, 2109 South Wabash, (312)753-5700, 9pm. $7.
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