P.O.S. has saved hip hop.
I haven’t been this excited and energized about a hip-hop album since Shadows On The Sun by Brother Ali came out in 2003. Minneapolis rapper Stefon Alexander, a.k.a. P.O.S. or that guy from the punk band Building Better Bombs, happens to share a label (Rhymesayers) and hometown with Brother Ali.
For reasons beyond my understanding, the location and label have created the most powerful farm team in indie rap music. Perhaps it’s the working-class background, the lack of a major music industry, or the rare collection of talent and work ethic found behind the doors at the label.
Whatever it is, it is working. Never Better is amazing and likely to be the best hip-hop album of 2009.
This a hip-hop record. Although it obviously draws on P.O.S.’s background in punk and rock music (P.O.S. plays most of the live instrumentation on the record), this is a record that categorically defines the indie in indie rap.
This record sounds right in your car — and tracks “Goodbye” and “Low Light Low Life” fit that party iPod playlist without hesitation. But there is a lot to this record — a far cry from two singles padded by twenty garbage tracks that have become the norm in hip hop. There’s a feeling of hands-on craft and consideration to this album.
Never Better sticks to the rules. P.O.S. mixes carefully rhymed phrases that, without entering the esoteric, faux-gang zingers that earn East Coast rap with such sudden fame and short shelf life, illustrate his entire world. Freezing weather, bold racism, wheezy lungs and zero-balance checking accounts create an unlikely backdrop to this strangely positive album.
Doomtree artist Dessa Darling, a.ka. Maggie Wander, kills a guest verse on “Low Light Low Life.” Jason Shevchuk (Kid Dynamite / None More Black), one of my favorite punk vocalists of all time, appears on “Terrorish.”
Never Better was released February 3, 2009 on Rhymesayers Entertainment.
Chris Force is the founder and editor of ALARM Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter if you’re into that kind of thing.
“Goodbye” from Never Better by P.O.S.
Available for download here.