Review Summary: Recession, poverty, an eternal winter – Minneapolis has never been better.
Certain pretentious publications expound a synthesis of punk and hip-hop somewhere within the boundaries of Never Better
; armed with a pitchfork to feed their cattle generalities from a hay bale of wordiness, they’re only partially correct. In his latest album, POS further expands his career; a promise of cohesion on the decent Audition
made this potential apparent, especially looking back to the mediocre Ipecac Neat
. A quick Wikipedia search yields troves of common blogosphere knowledge on the topic of Stefon Alexander – POS was a punk rocker, POS has different meanings for his name, POS is political. While ultimately self-defining to realize where one is from, these things do not define artistic representation. Guess what? POS is a rapper, and Never Better
is an excellent hip-hop album.
The most apparent difference from the Audition
of three years ago lies within the unique production here. While Dalek’s Gutter Tactics
was supposed to be the dissonant masterpiece of 2009, POS makes his own case for consideration with the noisy-come-melodic “Let It Rattle”, heavily dynamic “Purexed”, soulful “Been Afraid”, old-school influenced “Savion Glover” (yes the tap dancing one), and generally well-structured compositions. Both Doomtree-repping Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger lend their services to make the final listen a completely varied, yet tasteful effort, injecting a decidedly Doomtree-flavored spice to the recipe (see first single “Goodbye” for a perfect example – crew dedication “Low Light Low Life” is almost too much of a spotlight theft, but still interesting in its own right). Ultimately, most tracks careen into a near epic quality; the closer “The Brave And The Snake” exudes this perfectly, straddling a fine line between chaos and beauty by contrasting quiet flutes with explosive cymbal crashes and heavy bass lines.
Lyrically, Alexander is socially critical, angry, and abstract – the true punk-rock influence is here, as these lines are constructed specifically to make everyone pissed off. “Never Better” makes the sarcastic nature of the album title clear, without bludgeoning listeners with generality. The weapon of choice in combating the machine is an aggressive and heavily spoken word saturated flow. While at times bouncy and melodic, this technique is effective in capturing the impact of rapid-fire verses and multi-syllabic rhymes. Still a rapper, this commanding understanding of poetry and poetic devices is very refreshing and proves to be very entertaining in a live setting with the beats turned off. Inverting popular phrases to juxtapose with criticism of pop-culture and materialism, POS sees near-dystopian America digging their own “Graves” – “thoughts convertible, that’s what I’m on / keep livin’ in your box, what is that, a Scion? / Cool, it’s all fool’s gold ask me / what’s the goal fool dig deep, like six feet.”
With an unreal spring release schedule on the horizon, it’s hard to say whether or not Never Better
will stand up to the rest of 2009. But here’s a hypothesis… POS will end up on almost every year-end hip-hop list. Regardless, if POS is the next big thing out of Minnesota or not, it doesn’t matter – he raps for his friends, fam, and pride (although, the cash is probably a nice side-effect). Go to his show this tour, and only pass judgment after bullshi
tting amidst cigarette smoke, frozen precipitation, and a nice glass of whole milk.