Study Guide

Mathematics Introduction

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Mathematics Introduction

In a Nutshell

"Mathematics" is a striking, serious track about the warehousing of poor people in prisons, housing projects, and social welfare programs. 

A chill, forward beat and instrumentals by DJ Premier provide the structure for the simplest sort of mathematical act: counting up from one. 

But after Mos Def (who deserves to be crowned king of creative counting) triumphantly hits ten, the verses get far, far more complicated.

About the Song

ArtistMos Def
LabelRawkus Records
Writer(s)Mos Def (Dante Terrell Smith), DJ Premier (Christopher Edward Martin)
Producer(s)DJ Premier
Musician(s)Mos Def (vocals), DJ Premier (instrumentals), with samples from Mos Def, Fat Joe, Snoop Dogg, Raekwon, Ghostbusters soundtrack, Erykah Badu, Fatback Band, James Brown
AlbumBlack on Both Sides

Music Video


Influences on Mos Def

A Tribe Called Quest
Slick Rick
Gang Starr
Poor Righteous Teachers
Lakim Shabazz
De La Soul
Main Source
Chuck D
Boogie Down Productions
Afrika Bambaata
MF Doom
J Dilla

Influenced by Mos Def

Lupe Fiasco
Kid Cudi

Mathematics Resources


Jeff Chang, Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005)
Explains the rise of hip-hop from civil rights to gangsta rap.


Black on Both Sides (1999)
Mos Def's debut solo album was a critical hit and went gold in 2000.

The Ecstatic (2009)
This is arguably Mos Def's greatest—it got him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and a new onslaught of critical love.


Black on Both Sides Cover
It's pretty much just Mos Def's face.

DJ Premier
Mos Def's producer on "Mathematics" is thought to be one of the best around.

Movies & TV

Something the Lord Made (2004)
For lovers of Mos Def, here's a chance to see him play a starring role in a film about doctor Vivien Thomas (despite impressive acting chops, Mos is often more of a cameo guy).


"Mathematics" on Genius
Get a detailed breakdown of the lyrics from a different perspective, and add your own interpretations if you're feeling genius-y.

Mos Def on
Get videos, albums, and free streaming tracks.

Video & Audio

Here's a snippet of the track.

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