P.O.S. (real name Stefon Alexander) is the atypical rapper. He never sports ice, spits about getting “crunk” or brags about how many Bentleys he owns. He could be your best friend, brother or classmate. Yet underneath his humble demeanor lies a verbal assassin armed with rapid-fire delivery and passionate lyrics.
Since co-founding Doomtree Records in Minneapolis a decade ago, his work has been as DIY as it gets. Initially, P.O.S. was involved in several punk rock projects around the Twin Cities that drew influences from acts like Minor Threat, At the Drive-In and Fugazi. Once he bought his first drum machine, those influences slowly seeped into a newfound love of hip-hop. Suddenly, he was a rapper, and his hard work with Doomtree caught the attention of the boutique hip-hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment.
“Rhymesayers actually put me on,” he says. “They saw us doing our own thing for years, and it just kind of grew like that. It was a very organic process.”
It can be difficult to stand out as a rapper. But P.O.S. does it through motivation— his love for music and the ever-evolving artistic process. Monetary pursuits take the back seat.
“I would work any mind-numbing job as long I was able to keep making music,” he admits. “After people stop paying attention to me, I will still be making music somewhere. I will mop floors if I have to.”
On his latest record, Never Better, P.O.S. cleverly balances his punk backbone with hip-hop. His fans are a combination of hip-hop heads, punk rockers and indie kids, and Never Better is a magnet for that sort of diversity. For example, “Drumroll (We’re All Thirsty)” is packed with punk’s flair for fast and driving rhythm while “Optimist (We Are Not For Them)” carries more of the bleak tonal elements of hardcore rap. Then “Purexed” bursts in with a manic-depressive, drum-splattered slap against conventional hip-hop.
“The [song] ‘Optimist’ is as simple as it sounds. It’s about doing your own thing and being yourself,” he explains. “Who cares if people think you’re cool or not?”
That laid-back attitude is a far cry from “Pissed Off Stef,” his acronym’s meaning. Managing to bring the urgency and righteous anger of punk rock into the world of hip-hop, P.O.S. spans the musical spectrum with idiosyncratic takes on politics, life and love, revealing what more hip-hop can be. And it’s absolutely never been better.