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Roots Tonic's Artist Tips

Like the finest jazz, the best dub is a product of fruitful collaboration–and few artists know this as well as the New York-based trio Roots Tonic. Not only do members Josh Werner, Aaron Dugan, and Jonah David provide the back-up strength for Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu, but members have found themselves in the studio or on stage with everyone from John Zorn to Coco Rosie to Talib Kweli to Dr. Israel. Read more » 

Bitter Bastard on XLR8R Letters

From mangled postcards to maniacal fans, BJ "Bitter" Bastard lets you in on the most popular types of letters that XLR8R has received over the years.

1. "You are grossly overusing the word 'chanteuse,' 'techno,' 'dancefloor,' etc."
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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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