The Brooklyn collective of DJ Ayres, DJ Eleven, and Cosmo Baker celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their now-legendary rap party The Rub this weekend. While their monthly rager moved from the now-shuttered Park Slope club Southpaw to Gowanus’ much larger Bell House, the party remains a house-party-away-from-home for many New Yorkers, with the three DJs and their guests serving up hip-hop classics old and new alongside dancehall, R&B, funk, and stints of disco/house in an environment that encourages dancing over everything else.
The Rub has always been something much larger than just another dance party, and my first time there, back in its Southpaw days, is something I’ll always remember (I’ve gotten emotional about it once before). At the risk of sounding clichéd, the night left me with the distinct feeling that this party was representative of the growing underground and DJ community, which was a more inclusive, more interesting, more demographically diverse group than I had ever seen before. Not only were Ayres, Eleven, and Cosmo some of the best DJs Brooklyn had to offer, they trusted the talents of their friends and the open-mindedness of their audience enough to build a relationship based on mutual love and friendship as much as it was on pure entertainment.
In honor of the Rub being around for a decade (the party in its honor is tomorrow night at The Bell House), SOTC asked some of its friends to share their memories.
Nick Catchdubs, Fool’s Gold
The Rub is one of my all-time favorite parties to play as a guest and to attend as a regular, dancing-ass civilian. As DJs, The Rub braintrust are among the most knowledgeable and crafty selectors I know. But with great power comes great responsibility. The reason the party has been so fun for so long is because The Rub DJs have always put their crowd first—they can flex obscure records and wicky-wickys with the best of them, but on that one Saturday every month the only mission is to rock the party by any means necessary. They still change with the times and constantly find ways to surprise and evolve musically, but always remember to drop the bass out so the crowd can yell “biiiitch” in call-and-response with Too $hort. That’s why The Rub will still be jamming when it’s time to write another one of these in ten more years, and I’ll still be spilling my drink when Juvenile comes on.
Pete Emes, Smalltown DJs
I’m a Canadian from Canada, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on The Rub because as an outsider it feels like such a Brooklyn institution—like it belongs to the city. When we first came to play at Southpaw in 2006, we had been told that dance parties in New York were no fun, and this was exactly the opposite. It actually reminded me of home immediately, which is so weird. The people were a bit rougher than your average overly polite Canadians, and the punk-rock spirit of this rap party stood out. Cosmo Baker, Ayres & Eleven are three guys who I would consider some of my best friends, even though I only see them a few times a year. We’ve toured together several times and done a ton of ridiculous shit over the years. They are phenomenal dudes and great DJs, and I don’t want to state the obvious, but there’s nothing like being there when they are DJing a night at The Rub.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Writer (SPIN, Billboard, Village Voice)
Cosmo, Ayres, and Eleven soundtracked more strange make-outs than most of their participants probably remember. In ’05 and ’06, when this weird little internet community was just beginning to congeal (thanks to blogs and the Hollerboard), it felt like you knew every single person at The Rub, or at least knew someone who knew them. By the end of the summer, you’d have Frenched them. Beery singalongs to those years’ jams—TI’s “Whatchu Know,” Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly,” Smitty’s “Diamonds on My Neck”—not the most romantic mood on paper, but somehow The Rub DJs were like hairy Dr. Ruths. They knew that somehow, a song that made the whole room scream would inevitably lead to young, drunk puppy love. How did they know it? We were so innocent. The Rub’s stayed so vital over ten years because they DJ like you’re family, and you are. I met some of my best, lifelong friends because of these dudes (shout out Will Creeley!) and I’m happy to call them the same. If I made out with you in 2005, love you babe don’t ever change.
Dave Nada, Nadastrom
I remember the first time I got the invitation to play The Rub. I was so honored and insanely excited to play. It was in 2007, around the same time I released my first ever Baltimore Club EP on T&A Records [a record label run by DJ Ayres and Tittsworth]. My sets were 99% Baltimore Club and booty house and, as I recall, the main room of The Rub was all hip-hop then. I was super nervous and my hands were shaking; I knew I had to come correct, since I was trying something different. Sure enough, the place went nuts when I started and I fed off the energy of the crowd. I had one of the best nights of my life. I think I even headbanged into one of the turntables during my set because I was losing my mind! Haha. Playing The Rub continues to be a career highlight for me and it’s been an honor to have Ayres, Cosmo, and Eleven in my life as friends!
Matt Sonzala, Rap Blogger [Austin Surreal / Houston So Real]
I first met the guys from The Rub when I joined an online community called “The Hollerboard.” I had booked Diplo a couple of times in Houston, and I was going to the site mostly to find new music and to post music from Houston. A dude named Cosmo Baker called me out and declared that area of the Internet to be his. I was like “What the fuck, dude?” Then I realized he is literally one of the greatest, most thorough DJs in the world and a kindred spirit, and we became close friends pretty immediately. I met Ayres and Eleven way more amicably and will say the same things about them as well. That’s my people.
Together we created an event/movement called Sabbath in the Park, to bring balance to the off-kilter community and to celebrate the music of the greatest band ever, Black Sabbath. Sabbath in the Park has had multiple run-ins with the law, and through all that we have stood together and always beat the rap.
One of my fondest memories of The Rub guys happened on their turf, when we all hosted the Sabbath in the Court afterparty at Southpaw. We were all there to celebrate a unanimous decision by the courts to let all of the people cited by the Brooklyn Police at the first Sabbath in the Park off, and free of all charges. The music of Black Sabbath pumped loudly from the basement of Southpaw, while a couple hundred true heads from far and wide celebrated this magnificent victory. It was there that we became brothers. And even though DJ Eleven mixes records way too fast for my slowed-down Southern brain, I still regard The Rub as three of the greatest dudes to ever touch two turntables.
Rahnon, The Rub’s Gatekeeper / Door Girl
The Rub is everything that is good in life—your first kiss, falling in love, finding those expensive shoes you want at half the price, having all of your favorite people in one place every last Saturday of the month with great music. They say time flies when you are having fun. If that is the case, we have been having a blast, because the past 10 years have flown by. The Rub is the type of party that invites you in with a smile and gets you relaxed with some soulful grooves and classic R&B. Once you have had a drink or two and have started to let your hair down, The Rub hits you with classic hip-hop in a way that makes you say, “This is my song.” And before you can catch your breath, that new party rap has you on the dance floor making new friends with the cutie that was three people behind you in line at the door. You are feeling good; the reggae, soca or salsa has you trying moves you have only seen on Dancing With The Stars. And after you have caught your breath and the number of that cutie (and maybe a sip of water), The Rub hits you with a little rock, dance, or house music just to make the music circle complete. Before you know it, it is 4 a.m. and the party is over. You say to the fabulous door girl, “This was the best party ever!”, and she replies, “I know, right?! See you next month.” Then, you are officially a Rub-ber.
The Rub’s 10-year anniversary party, with Just Blaze and The Gaff, takes place tomorrow night at The Bell House.