Monday, November 6, 2017

NERD MUSIC: P.O.S.

I'm a casual fan of hip-hop, so I'm not going to pretend I can speak intelligently about trends or comparisons or whatnot, but one of my favorite artists working today is P.O.S., from the Minnesota hip-hop collective Doomtree (which is a phrase you've heard many times if you're a listener of the podcasts 99% Invisible or What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law.

My favorite hip-hop album of all-time is still Deltron 3030 (whose sequel I reviewed here when that came out), but P.O.S.'s sophomore album Never Better may be number two on my list. I've spent nearly a decade playing guitar and singing in my current band, but I started out as a drummer, and in my heart, I'll always be a drummer. The massive, drum-forward production on Never Better continues to do that drummer's heart inside me a ton of good. The beats across the entire P.O.S. discography are big and catchy, and each album has something of a signature. The layered percussion throughout Never Better, the liberal use of Kaoss Pads on We Don't Even Live Here, and the melodic character and standout guest vocal appearances on his latest, Chill, Dummy.



The musical imagination across these records is at times jaw-dropping. At least once on each of these albums, I've grabbed somebody close to me and literally told them they had to come listen to this thing. My favorite example from Chill, Dummy, is the song "Thieves/Kings," which did it to me twice. The first time comes when P.O.S. gets so emotional on the track that he loses the chorus and has to just drop out to regain his composure — I realize this could either be legitimate or solid acting, but it carries a ton of emotional weight, all the same. Coming out of that moment the track goes into a sung guitar solo. That probably sounds laaaaame, but it's amazingly executed. There's heavy distortion on the vocal, which is either vocoded with a guitar or tracked alongside...it doesn't matter. It just sounds fantastic, and it's something I've never heard before.



Now, to circle back to the "nerd" part of "nerd music," just in case being vouched for by Roman Mars, ringleader of beautiful nerds everywhere, isn't quite selling you, then check out this partial list of lyrical references that I'm aware of:
  • one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg stand-up bits
  • Saved by the Bell
  • Fugazi
  • NOFX
  • They Live
  • A Crispin/Danny/Savion Glover cycle
  • actually name-checking Roman Mars
  • Geroge Orwell ("The doublespeak is legit / "Stand up for yourself, you worthless piece of shit!")
Beyond the musical imagination, the sense of humor, and the fact that a lot of the lyrics feel like one of my friends from high school or college suddenly got damn good at rapping and put a bunch of stuff we liked into hip hop songs, these are records with a political and social conscience. I have to admit that one reason why I never got as into hip hop as I might otherwise have are the lyrical tropes of misogyny, sexual conquest or prowess, and an emphasis on violence that run throughout a lot of the work that I've been exposed to. That stuff is absent here. In fact, many tracks seem to winkingly flout those expectations or stereotypical obsessions with what is sometimes called toxic masculinity ("Who's the best in the world?! / I don't know...you?") P.O.S. isn't about telling you he's the best rapper out there...he lets his records speak for him, and he does it with a nod to the nerdy, and nerd-adjacent, like me.

Buy Links

Never Better (Amazon, iTunes)
We Don't Even Live Here (Amazon, iTunes)
Chill, Dummy (Amazon, iTunes)

Stream Links
Never Better (Spotify)
We Don't Even Live Here (Spotify)
Chill, Dummy (Spotify)


Posted by Vance K — cult film reviewer and co-editor of nerds of a feather, flock together since 2012, musician, and Emmy Award-winning producer.

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