You've got to be completely out of the DJ loop not to know the name Carl Cox, a British DJ associated with the earliest beginnings of turntable culture. When Cox was a child he was his dad's right-hand man at parties, where he learned which records to drop to keep things going. When his peers were interested in hanging out at McDonald's and playing video games, Cox was spending his money on records.

When it came to black dance music, "Coxy," as they call him back home, voraciously took it all in. Playing out professionally since the age of 15, he started out with rare groove, hiphop, and electro. When the British rave world exploded, Cox championed the scene with acid house and techno, his signature use of three turntables, as well an undeniable, infectious live enthusiasm that could be compared to the vibe of our own hometown rave hero, Donald Glaude.

Still, after all the time and effort he put into his work--playing to over a million people at once at Berlin's Love Parade (his favorite performance to date), hitting the tops of readers' polls, and counting all his releases and cameo movie appearances--Cox still seems to maintain a humble, focused attitude. "I just want to break new music--what I play now is what I feel people will be playing in two years," he says.

His recent explorations on vinyl have focused on funked-up techno, hard/tech house, and future school breaks. With the undeniable depth of his experience, whether you like him or not boils down to a matter of personal taste--because when it comes down to being a DJ, you can't really say shit about him.

Cox's success has taken its toll, though: 1998 saw the breakup of a three-year marriage, and at around the same time, his globetrotting habits brought on some health problems. These days, though, he has scaled back his schedule and business obligations, which seems to keep the 39-year-old looking pretty good for someone who's put in close to two decades at the club. NICOLAE WHITE

Carl Cox w/the Funkist and DJ Eva, Thurs July 25 at the Showbox, 1426 First Ave, 628-3151, 9 pm-2 am, 18+, $25.

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