Magnetic The Shaman is a Philadelphia hip-hop artist on the rise. With three EPs, two LPs and a handful of singles under his belt, he’s been making waves in the Philly scene since 2016. His latest EP, Three Treasures, showcases his cerebral, allusive brand of hip-hop with a conceptual twist. On his Bandcamp page, Magnetic writes that “each track on the three-song EP is inspired by [one of] the three basic virtues, or three treasures, of Taoism, namely compassion (‘Hattori Hanzo’), humility (‘Illadelph to Brooklynati’) and frugality (‘10 Million Zeni’). With comments on the state of human decency, living modestly and with moderation, Magnetic continues to put together the pieces of a long-standing puzzle.” New Jersey producer Brainorchestra’s dusty, meditative production enlivens these weighty themes and recalls the “golden age” of hip-hop in the late 80s and early 90s. It’s an ideal backdrop for Magnetic’s self proclaimed old-school style (“I’m praying at the altar of the so-called backpack rap, boom-bap and the record scratch.”) That Magnetic is such a passionate student of hip hop history — not to mention history in general — is a huge part of his appeal.
Opener “Hattori Hanzo” yanks us instantly into Magnetic’s crowded headspace. Over Brainorchestra’s sputtering beat, with a flow at once freewheeling and angular, Magnetic spins East Asian warriors, the Bible and computer programming into an ode to the first treasure of Taoism. “I promise that compassion is real, it’s like the thought of spreading love took on a radical feel,” he says, sounding almost bemused at the self-absorption he finds in his own generation. No matter the obstacles, he’s determined to keep his own ego in check, to stay humble.
Practicing what he preaches, Magnetic steps back to make room for two guest verses on the next track, “Illadelph to Brooklynati.” New York rappers Von Pea and Donwill offer up their own takes on humility. “Still a few phone numbers I need and ain’t got, but I got perspective so I guess I got a lot…Caught a few bad breaks, you ain’t fumbled enough,” Donwill spits, upending the hip-hop boast by celebrating his own mistakes. Magnetic closes things out with a breathless account of childhood wonder and gratitude for past experiences that shaped him. Whether God, art or otherwise, the idea of trust in a higher power runs through all three verses. In Magnetic’s case, it’s music that gives him the tools to stay humble in a cold, competitive world.
“10 Million Zeni” finds Magnetic waxing philosophical on the perils of chasing wealth for its own sake, with dashes of humor. Quips like “I broke the loaves and fishes, you blew it on two McChickens” and “Another day, another donut for Dilla” demonstrate his ability to breathe new life into familiar phrases. The track culminates with Magnetic staring down the barrel of final responsibility for his own choices, as he transports us to a hypothetical future: “Did I give into the serpent and become a bitter person? Or did I realize my purpose? Heart beating steady like the hands of surgeons, I’m hip-hop ‘til it’s curtains.” If Three Treasures is any indication, the serpent doesn’t stand a chance.