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Psalm One: Something Explosive

"You'll never be more than that girl who raps good for a girl/But really those titties is giving wood to the world."

As this line from "Rapper Girls" demonstrates, Chicago MC Psalm One (born Cristalle Bowen) is familiar with the disses thrown at female rappers. She's heard the looks-but-no-talent teases, and she's happy to throw some out herself (as she does repeatedly on this track)–but only if they're accurate. It's part and parcel of the blunt, crafty style that's made her a rising star on the Rhymesayers label.

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Couch: Indie Outback

Munich, Germany's Couch makes dense yet delicate instrumental rock that reminds me of late-summer coffee-fueled urban quests in search of a gorgeous yet imaginary goth waif. The humid air and desirous undercurrent are a perfect match for the strummed guitars and moody electronics of Couch's new album, Figur 5 (Morr Music), a record as bittersweet as my romantic pursuits.

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ESPO: The Powers That Be

"I have a thing for pigeons, it's no mystery," offers Stephen Powers (alias ESPO) by phone, when I ask him why he adorned our 100th issue cover with a phalanx of the world's dirtiest birds. "Pigeons are urban dwellers, they're the lowest common denominators, and yet they're amazing animals that can fly 600 miles in a day and they'll live off of anything. I love the fact that they're so hated and despised but they run things."

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Shirts So Good: Five of the Finest

It's easy to knock off a few good t-shirt designs–hell, even Urban Outfitters has managed it once or twice–but it's hard to keep on rocking. Coming out with fresh looks for human billboards means keeping two laps ahead of the pack while staying true to your vision. It means knowing that certain things are never out of style if done right. It entails making clever entendres and cultural references, while steering clear of straight-up rip-offs. Read more » 

Hieroglyphic Being In The Studio

As minimal techno plunders the ashes of Chicago's jack track aesthetic, Jamal Moss (a.k.a. Hieroglyphic Being) represents another deviation of the classic house sound. Mentored by Chicago legends Adonis and Steve Poindexter, Moss' tracks recall the sort of wild experimentation that can only be achieved through limited resources. Armed with little more than a couple drum machines and budget mixers, the typical Hieroglyphic Being 12" stands in stark contrast to the clinical style of laptop production. Read more » 

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