P.O.S. is "somewhere in Ohio, maybe," driving back to Minneapolis from the Afro-Punk Weekend festival in Brooklyn, N.Y., when his phone loses its signal. Then it cuts out again. And again. But, like the man's rhymes, P.O.S. is persistent. He keeps calling back, apologizing every time. Oh, we're going to get through this interview, all right.
P.O.S. has stood for everything from Pissed off Stef (the rapper was born Stefon Leron Alexander) and Piece of Shit to Promise of Skill. Reviews of his sophomore album, Audition, run a similar range. Some critics rave over the tracks' diversity, while others damn it for the same reason.
When asked about his feelings toward his latest CD, however, and how it relates to his state of being, he's upbeat.
"Right now, P.O.S. stands for Promise of Stef," he says. "I'm feeling pretty good."
Raised in the Twin Cities, P.O.S. was weaned on his mother's Motown influence before striking out on his own musical journey. At 13, he entrenched himself in the city's punk scene, moshing to Black Flag and Minor Threat. Known at the time as the kid with the 'frohawk, he stayed active in punk music in bands like Om. At 15, he started to experiment with rap.
Which brings us to today, to this album. Even though his debut, Ipecac Neat, was well-received, P.O.S. says Audition is just that a need to prove himself all over again.
"[Audition is] more cohesive as a record. The first record was written over about two years and was all over the place. This time, I tried to cover as much ground as possible, but still keep it in the same vein," he says. "Audition was the first record that was put out that actually, right off the bat, had good distribution and exposure. I needed to show the world what I was capable of."
Produced by P.O.S. and members of his Doomtree record label crew, primarily Emily Bloodmobile and Lazerbeak, Audition is an exercise in seeing just how many styles a rapper can tap. The rage on "Half-Cocked Concepts" is the most obvious nod to his thrasher past, with P.O.S. spitting out lyrics fast and furious: "A message in a bottle, written in gas and oil / Signed with a rag and a match, here catch." Sparse cello lines and the simple beat of "De La Souls" offset the silly squonk of "Suicide Uma Schrantz" and the bigger booty-bass of tracks like "Living Slightly Larger" and "Bleeding Hearts Club (MPLS Chapter)," which features Slug from Atmosphere.
Whether critics praise or pan his work, it doesn't seem like P.O.S. will stop anytime soon. He currently surrounds himself with the likes of Spoon, Minneapolis band The Plastic Constellations, and Afrika Bambaataa. Rest assured that these artists and more will feed the rapper's future musical aspirations.
" I don't like to copy what anyone else is doing, but I definitely like to try to replicate the feel of [the sound], the flavor," he says. "But I want to do it my way."
P.O.S., with Archetypes
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, July 15, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day of show, all ages; visit sodajerkpresents.com.