Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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“The Magic Number,” De La Soul

I accidentally destroyed my phone during a run yesterday, so I called my old iPod up from the reserves. It’s a modified 300-gig monster that I still update, even though I rarely use it. Scrolling takes forever, so I stopped in the Ds for De La Soul’s classic 3 Feet High And Rising. It’s been a minute since I’ve heard it, and I was left wondering why I don’t listen to “The Magic Number” on a loop all day. I prefer higher BPMs in my hip-hop, and a brisk boom-bap beat anchors the song along with a hooky sample. Posdnuos and Dave keep up the pace with their flows, and it all comes together perfectly under the watchful eye of producer Prince Paul. “The Magic Number” amiably flies by, which is why I’ve listened to it like six times in the past 24 hours. [Kyle Ryan]


Black Star, “Respiration”

Earlier this week, audio surfaced of Yasiin Bey—formerly Mos Def, also formerly retired—talking about a new Black Star album, to be produced entirely by Madlib. Bey’s got a handful of classics under his belt, as does Madlib, and, well, Talib Kweli can rap well, and so the prospect of a second Black Star record, two decades after the first, is an exciting one. It sent me back to that debut, and in particular “Respiration,” the album’s second single and, for my money, its best moment. I was in middle school when it came out, and I remember poring over the video, its grainy footage of New York and Chicago folding over each other, Mos Def going long in a bigass parka with a density and clarity to his emceeing that sounded like something utterly new. It was a north star for me over the next few years, as I watched underground rap explode through the lens of early web searches and glossy music mags. And that subterranean beat from Hi-Tek only gets more sublime with each passing year. [Clayton Purdom]

Shopping, “Control Yourself”

I’ve been a fan of this British trio since catching them live in 2015 and getting hooked on their spare, spindly, and eminently danceable post-punk. Their third album, The Official Body, arrived last month, and it certainly has the feel of a well-earned breakthrough—cleaner, more confident, more adventurous. That’s especially true of “Control Yourself,” the band’s first track to break the four-minute mark and a standout on the record’s back half. Its first minutes are about as indirect and moody as the group gets, letting Rachel Aggs’ normally nimble guitar ring out mysteriously while a zombified Billy Easter chants a consumerist mantra. But a slow crescendo and a knotty bass transition welcome us to the song’s smoldering second half, where the band sounds more furious and severe than ever. It’s not some massive stylistic leap, but it’s an important example of this young, consistent band testing its boundaries and playing with dynamics and moods in a way it hadn’t before. [Matt Gerardi]


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