Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Everybody's trying to find themselves -- picking through books, taking internal dictation, posturing, un-posturing and throwing more and more things against the wall, knowing that sometimes what sticks is still just a phase that's being worked through. Whatever it is will wear off too, like a sidewalk chalking of a rocket or it will bleed into the skin like a 40-year-old tattoo of an anchor and an old flame's rusty name. Very few things in life can have or will allow for any semblance of permanence. This makes the search for the self something of a serial expedition that doesn't really give itself over to absolutes, but offers these opportunities to be stuck in a windowless room -- with the person you are at that given moment - allowed the "as good as any time" chance to walk around, deconstruct everything visible and then fire as many questions at it as time might allow. It's how a great song starts and then is. It doesn't overstep any bounds. A song that achieves this kind of status doesn't usually work when the artist is thinking about much more than what's happening in the immediate sense. Reflection is good, but impulse knows best. Show the hand as it is, not how it was five minutes ago or how it's anticipated to look in an hour. Stef Alexander - or P.O.S. on record and in Doomtree lore - has found what he is today on his spectacular sophomore album, "Audition," a piece of art that's a tour de reckoning, with plenty of force to keep it company.
He's angry at President George W. Bush (joining the crowd, but finding his own private thorn). He's a father to a little boy named Jake. He's comfortable with where he stands. He knows that tomorrow's parenthetical and he's pretty sure that he's looking forward to it when it happens. Sometimes when a person stops to smell the roses, they stink. Sometimes the fragrance can get you fucking drunk. P.O.S. finds this out himself. He found the meaning of his present identity and then presented it in the form of hard-hitting rhymes that spare themselves of any kind of filler and in a refreshing take on hip-hop that isn't about to shortchange itself for the sake of making a club buzz or honies swoop in for a slice of the pie. He is a man of tender age who happens to know himself - at this particular hour and with no promises that this will always be the way it is. He quotes Tyler Durden, "Sticking feathers in your ass does not make you a chicken," in "Half-Cocked Concepts." He wouldn't need feathers. He probably wouldn't even know where to find any.
He's got "teeth, wings, all that." He says this as an aside on one of the songs he recorded here, directing it as a description of Doomtree, the collective of like-minded individuals living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area and causing quite a stir with their inspiring take on societal woes and personal joys, but it could as easily be taken as an autobiographical blurb. He seems to hound himself to decipher in an original manner and in doing that, he draws comfort. He's the writer who just has to write or his head and veins would burst clean out of his body. It's writing for writing's sake, but more so for understanding's sake. He finds richness in not caring about money. He sings in "De La Souls," "No one will ever be, like me," and it's the line that says it all about what he cares about and how he differs from the masses. In the hands of another MC, that line comes off as the work of a braggadocio, claiming superiority, probably in the number of rad automobiles owned, the price tags of their rims or the number of miscellaneous women bedded. For P.O.S., it's an expression of individualism, an anthem for those who might be caught in the malaise of being one of the forgettable many. He raps in "Shoplifting," "This is for the artists who know their work is just a drop in the ocean, but do it anyway" and it shows where his intentions may differ from those of, say, a Lupe Fiasco or a Timbaland, who may assume a greater level of sole importance.
Alexander and his songs are no drops in the oceans, though he said that he never thinks "anyone out there's listening to my shit." It's seems like such a wild thought because one listen must beget another listen and another listener. And when that happens a few more times, the bubble will have burst and the present that he could be writing about would have the possibility of becoming a different breed. Something tells me this is one guy who couldn't be bothered with avarice. He'd probably just get brighter, make us see his core even clearer.
h2. The Daytrotter interview:
*How's this tour going? It's a diverse thing. Everyone's (The Velvet Teen, Russian Circles, Minus the Bear) so different.*
P.O.S.: Everybody's way different from everybody else. Everyone's just bringing it every night. Everyone's getting along really well. On the first night, we all made out introductions and had some good beers. We sold out the entire East Coast, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and everything else on the tour has been close.
*"De La Souls" is such a personal song and your son Jake's name gets dropped. Is he going to love that song someday? It's going to tell him a lot about his pa? What's he into these days?*
P.O.S.: If it wasn't for my son, I probably wouldn't be working this hard to make songs. I love making songs and I've made songs for a long time. I'll be making them long after you'll be hearing from me, but I'm just working so hard on this to make sure that he doesn't have to pick through everything to find out what's cool and what's not. Everything will be cool. He listens to the song now. He doesn't get what it's all about, but he knows all the words and he likes that his name's in it. He's seven. He'll learn from me everything before he ever hears it in a song. He's into sharks right now. He wants to own a Great White Shark and he doesn't quite understand that that's not quite possible. He likes swords. He's a seven-year-old boy. He likes fucking ninjas.
*The last time we talked on the phone, you mentioned how you're cool with living without money and how you don't really need much. Are you still that way? Do you find it interesting that more people aren't able to just live rather than getting consumed by the desire to gain and consume?*
P.O.S.: That's how my mom brought me up. I'll always be like that. If my next album accidentally sells three million copies, I'm not going to have a fucking clue what to do. I'll probably buy a house. I'll buy my son's mom a house. I'll save some and give some away. I can't see any point in having money and being rich. If I ever was, it would seem ridiculous to have more shit. I still feel pretty much the same way. If you want to be a painter and live in a two-bedroom apartment with your girl, then that's what you should do. Why should you want anything else? So many people work so hard to get all of this stuff and by the time they have it, they're too old to enjoy it. The other day, my mom asked me why I get these tattoos - I have some on my hands now. She said, 'What's going to happen when you get older and you wish that you didn't have all these tattoos?' And I asked her, 'Are you going to spend all this time not getting tattoos because you're worried about what you'll look like when you're old? That's years and years of not enjoying your tattoos.' When I'm 70, I'm going to say, 'Watch me stretch my skin so you can see this fucking cool tattoo I had when I was younger.'
*How has your hardcore life made you a better rapper?*
P.O.S.: I don't know if it's made me a better rapper, but there are things I won't say that other rappers will just because I didn't grow up with it. I grew up around straight-edge punk kids. We sleep on floors and we pile into hotel rooms. We tour in a van. A lot of that comes from punk rock and hardcore.
*Are you still planning on doing a record with Craig Finn? How great is that new album of theirs?*
P.O.S.: We're in the same city a lot. We'll get it done if there's a way to get it done. I'd just like to take the beats and see what happens. It's a great record. I'm pretty stoked on it.
*Who do you admire?*
P.O.S.: My mom. My son's mom. Anybody that's willing to do it the hard way is alright in my book.
*If you were starting "Half Cocked Concepts" right now, would you write "First of all REALLY fuck Bush?"*
P.O.S.: There's a lot more anger, but...I think I would take that line out if I was writing it again. People don't really understand it. Well, they understand, but nobody really wants to scrutinize the details. Everyone knows what "Fuck Bush" is, everyone's said, "Fuck Bush," but nothing's happened.
*What's been the best moment of the year for you?*
P.O.S.: Every year's been bigger than the last. I try to prepare for that not to happen. It's the realist in me. The best part of the year had to be selling out First Avenue for the homecoming show of my first headlining tour. I've seen so many sold out shows there - Atmosphere, Pavement, Sonic Youth, A Tribe Called Quest - and I still go to shows there all the time. That's the spot and I sold that fucker out.