By Simon Vozick-Levinson
May 28, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Two decades after upending rap’s status quo with their debut 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul recently took a stab at an unfamiliar genre: music to run to. Are You In?, a 10-track mix of brand-new material commissioned by Nike, went on sale last month, following in the, er, footsteps of mixes by artists like LCD Soundsystem. “We’re not the biggest of runners,” the trio’s Posdnuos (pictured at right) confesses to the Music Mix. “But all of us in the group have equipment in the house and occasionally get on the elliptical or go outside…I love listening to It Takes a Nation of Millions [To Hold Us Back] from Public Enemy when I’m out running. Hearing Flavor [Flav] wildin’ out and Chuck [D] in my head just pushes me to go further and further.”

Keeping that level of energy in mind, De La crafted a tight set of pulse-racing jams with help from Chicago-based DJs Flosstradamus. As far as they’re concerned, Are You In? is as much a full-fledged De La album as any other. “We’ve always had themes for our albums, from 3 Feet High and Rising on up,” says Pos. “So knowing that the theme of this record was making sure you inspire running was just another way of us having an entire album where we had to connect everything.”

Give Are You In? standout “Big Mouf” a free listen below, then click through to the jump for more news on De La Soul’s upcoming projects — including their work on the next Gorillaz album.

Before being contacted by Nike, De La Soul had already begun work on their next proper album, You’re Welcome, which is now likely headed for an indie release early next year. “We have several tracks that are coming together incredibly,” says Pos. Among them are “We Are (For the People),” which will feature vocals from Chuck D and Flavor Flav (get out those running shoes!), and a reflective tune titled “We Are God.” De La Soul also hope to secure a guest appearance from Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, whom they got to know after rapping on Gorillaz’ 2005 hit “Feel Good Inc.”

Speaking of which, De La Soul’s members have contributed vocals to two songs so far for the next Gorillaz album, which Pos says is tentatively titled Plastic Beach. Pos says the working titles he was given for those tracks were “Sloped Tropics” and “Electric Shock” — the latter of which lines up with the name of one of the Gorillaz demos that Albarn debuted on BBC Radio 1 in January. Gorillaz’ reps couldn’t confirm any of this info to me yet, but I’m already pretty excited based on Pos’ descriptions of the new Gorillaz material: “From what we’ve heard, it sounds amazing. To me, quite honestly, it sounds better than the last album.” Woo-hoo! Anyone else looking forward to and/or already enjoying any of De La Soul’s many new projects?

More from EW’s Music Mix:
The Wire star Dominic West on Eminem’s “obsessive” love of the show
Video for The-Dream and Kanye West’s “Walking on the Moon” drops: This absolutely needs to be a huge hit
Beyonce’s new video for “Ego” — “Single Ladies” part deux?

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