By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF)– One of the more literate MCs currently operating in the hip-hop underground, Minneapolis-based rapper P.O.S. took an unusual route to microphone supremacy. While a young Stephon Alexander was initially drawn to DIY punk rock as a multi-instrumental talent before he entered his teens (he played drums for Cadillac Blindside and was guitarist/singer for Building Better Bombs), by 14 he had discovered edgy hip-hop acts like NYC group Company Flow and Minnesota collective Oddjobs.
Performing at small venues around Minneapolis, P.O.S. developed his unique style that mixed nimble, tongue twisting wordplay, declamatory slam poetry and soul-baring, emotionally charged personal lyrics. He was part of the group Cenospecies that released a single album in 2002 entitled Indefinition before splitting up. By then, P.O.S. had established the collective Doomtree with fellow Minneapolis MCs Dessa, Cecil Otter and Sims and a cadre of DJs/producers and founded its eponymous record label.
After the split EP False Hopes with Cecil Otter, he finally released his solo debut Ipecac Neat in 2004. The album established what would become P.O.S.’s trademark of heavily distorted guitar and bass intermixed with off-kilter, experimental beats. The album caught the attention of fellow Minneapolis hip-hop group Atmosphere, who signed the MC to their Rhymesayer Entertainment label.
P.O.S. would issue a string of acclaimed albums including Audition in 2006 and his breakout effort Never Better with the college-radio hits “Drumroll (Let It Rattle)” and “Purexed.” His next recording We Don’t Even Live Here moved away from his punk roots with its embrace of grimy UK club sounds and almost industrial beats, but the fiery MC was forced to put his career on hold shortly after the album was released, canceling a planned tour due to complications with his failing kidneys (he would eventually have a successful transplant in 2014).
His health issues curtailed his activities to some extent, but he continued to record and tour with Doomtree and work on a number of both hip-hop and rock side projects. Last year, P.O.S. returned his attention to his solo career, putting out a series of singles for download that finally culminated in the release of Chill, dummy earlier this year. The gifted MC brings that new material back to the Bay Area for two shows this week. P.O.S. takes the stage at the Bottom of the Hill Monday night, joined by fellow Doomtree rapper Sims and Minneapolis product Dwynell Roland. The show moves to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz Tuesday night.
Monday, March 6, 8 p.m. $15-$20
Bottom of the Hill
Tuesday, March 7, 8:30 p.m. $15