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Shootin' the shit with P.O.S.

By Sam Devine

Aug 21, 2006 - 12:00 AM

It’s Thursday night at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. A young crowd is kickin about the bar’s psuedo-alleyway vibe, sippin on a half dozen different types of decent beer: Anchor Steam, Newcastle, Stella Artois, oh, and of course Corona and Bud.

Silent Army and the harmonica-infused groove band Honeycut have done opening sets, and Bay Area Anticon beat-maker Jel is onstage, bobbin his shaggy head, busting beats on his MPC. The crowd is into it, talking with Jel as he waits for a disk load up and sips a Hefeweizen. He performs songs from his new album, “Soft Money,” sustaining high notes and thudding bass drums into garage-industrial hip hop beats. “They tell me play something simple. People like simple music,” he says. “Well, I like to get drunk and make it hard for anyone to understand what’s going on.”

The energy stays good as headliner P.O.S. takes the stage with DJ Turbo Nemesis, the two representing Minnesota’s Rhymesayers Entertainment and Doomtree. First things first, P.O.S. gives a shout out to the locale, then gets to some important business.

“Is there anyone going to the East Bay that could give my friends a ride?” He asks, eye s smiling behind his glasses, underneath the sawed off bill of his blue baseball cap. “They got stuck out here and they wanna get home. I’m sure they can chip in on gas or whatever…It’s nice to see some familiar faces here.”

He checks with Turbo Nemesis, and it’s time to warm up the crowd:

“Say, ‘Yeah Right!’”

“Yeah Right!”

After a bit a that, Turbo Nemesis leans over the tables like a reaper in a hoody and drops the distorted guitar break-beat of “Yeah Right.” P.O.S. raps and screams the ninth cut from his new album “Audition.”

Next, the fat synth bass of “De La Souls” rumbles through the building.


When the song gets to the lyric “I wanna see the stars be the moon to my son ,” the crowd shouts the break: “But I’m always on the run run ruuuuuun!” Everyone’s on the chorus line too, “No one will ever be like me!”

P.O.S. gets knocked for this, having real chorus sections, instead of repeating quick hooks. Similar to artists like Jurassic Five or Lyrics Born, who see their material played on rock stations, this is too rock n’ roll to get airplay on urban radio stations or get favorable hip-hop reviews.

He performs two more songs from the new album, and then breaks it down acapella (“An’ I feel like heavin / waitin’ for the world to fuck me up so we’ll be even-steven”) and busts through two unreleased songs.

By the end of the night they’ve played most of “Audition,” his latest release. All the while, P.O.S. takes time to thank the audience for being so cool, so into everything. This is the third night of his summer tour, and after two appearances in L.A., the Sucka free City is comin’ correct, a rapt and funky audience.

Afterwards, Zo and I hang around talking with Jel and Silent Army. Jel’s playin with Mr. Dibbs at 2322 MLK the next night for the Bay Area regional prelims for the Cincinnati, OH rap-off, Scribble Jam. The one man show that is Silent Army, is chillin’ in the Bay to say what’s up to friends and family.

Eventually P.O.S. walks over and points at us and then towards the door, eyes wide, tongue piercing in the corner of his mouth.

We go to the green room, a small concrete space upstairs with a sink, a fridge and a red fifties diner set of tables and chairs. The walls are raw cement grey and the tagged, sticker-covered doors of the last fridge hang above a black leather couch. Three ladies are sitting around with Silent Army, Turbo Nemsis, and Jel standing in the corner. We sit down at the red diner and I flip through the Vice Photo-issue.

“Here you go, or wait, lemme freshen that up for you,” says P.O.S., re-packing the bowl. “We’re taking a flight tomorrow and we gotta get rid of all this weed. So, how do you wanna do this?”

He means the interview.

“I don’t know,” I say. “But, what do you have against coffee shops?”

(“P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life” from “Audition” has the line “I’m at the bar of the coffee shop / but I don’t like drinkin’ / and I fuckin’ hate coffee shops / I’m out to stop the world”)

“He’s at them too much,” says a cute brunette on the couch. The ladies go off for a minute about people from Alcoholics Anonymous always being at coffee shops in Minneapolis. As he passes the pipe, I ask if they’re Lebowski fans (Track 5 is called “Bush league Psyche-out stuff” – nobody fucks with the Jesus).

“Of course,” he says without skipping a beat. After a minute of jokin around he pulls Zo and I outside for an interview. He smokes and laughs with the lights of the SOMA in the background as we talk on the landing above the bar’s back patio.

{Unfortunately I used a p.o.s.-recorder to record our interview with P.O.S., so sorry for the subtle inaccuracies.}

Sam: Has tonight been the highlight of the tour so far?

P.O.S: Oh, Yeah, LA was good but they can be kinda too cool for school sometimes. It was fun down there. The crowd tonight was great though.

S: You use a lot of guitar on you album.

P: Yeah. I try to play something on every song.

S: Do you play upright bass on the album?

P: Upright bass? A little bit. On the album though? I know what you’re talkin’ about. That’s a sample.

Zoneil: You’ve got a punk band, Building Better Bombs?

P: Yeah. Since I was 13 or 14 I’ve been in the same band with the same dudes.

Z: How long have you been rapping?

P: I’ve been rapping, and taking it seriously for, mm, five years now. But I’ve always been aware of hip-hop. We played a show with Oddjobs when I was like 14. Crescent Moon was the one who encouraged me to take rap seriously

Z: How’d you end up on Rhymesayers?

P: I don’t know. It was just, just a fluke, really. Slug and I had seen each other around town and stuff. My punk band had played a gig with Rhymesayers. He was going on tour and said, “come do merch for me.” So I did that. Then he did the Warped Tour, that was the next thing. He said, “You probably won’t get to rap, but you know, bring a set anyway.” I would go around to every stage and talk with each stage manager, say, you know, I can fill 20 to 40 minutes. By the end of the tour I was playing every night.

Z: When you’re making music, how do you approach hip-hop? Is it a different process than punk?

P: I approach it the same way. I might play a riff and it might start to sound good with a hip-hop beat. I’ve also had to scrap a beat because it sounds better with the band.

Everyone wants to see me as punk rock. I got so many bad reviews that said I was like nu-metal or whatever, and you could just tell that they hadn’t even listened to the album. They read the bio; it’s got all my influences and they just said, “uh, Linkin Park.” I mean if you listen it’s clear that I’m clearly a rapper.

S: My first reaction was there’s a similarity to nu-metal but it sounded like it was comin’ from the other side of things. It wasn’t that you were tryin’ to be metal, it was like all these elements came together, and there was a similarity, but…

P: Yeah, like Rage Against the Machine. Zach de la Rocca was a rapper in a hardcore band.

S: You’ve got the line “Open up the machine and rage against the gears.” You’re talking about politics. Is that important?

P: Yeah. I mean, being self-aware is important. I’m not saying, I mean, I don’t know anymore than anyone, but if it’s affecting me and my family, and people I know, then I’m going to talk about it.

S: You’ve got a kid. Has that changed everything?

P: Yeah, I’ve got a son, Jake. He’ll be seven this summer. An yeah, it’s changed everything.

S: You’ve got a song “Del La Souls.” They’ve got a lyric (or two) about havin’ a kid.

P: Yeah that was the song I flipped “I am I be” (off of De La Soul’s “Buhloone Mindstate”).... I’m not sure if they know about it, or if they’d like it, but it was done completely out of respect. The way I was comin’ at it, I didn’t want it to seem like I was bitin’, it was done out of respect.

S: Are you going to do some more recording?

P: Yeah. I’ve been recording. Doomtree’s got an album comin’ out. I’ve been doing some soul shit. Building Better Bombs has a full record done.

Z: What label’s it going to be on?

P: We don’t know yet. It might be Doomtree. Maybe Totally Gross. Some of the guys in the band know them.

After talking with him, I can honestly say that P.O.S. is extremely down to earth (“I’ve got a rider, but I don’t know, I feel like I’m putting people out. I’m like, ‘could I get some socks…’”). By the time you read this he’ll have finished his summer tour and embarked on two others, making time in between to stop back home for his son’s birthday and his own. Check out Doomtree.net and Rhymesayers.com for more info on the rapper and his punk rock band.

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Ready for his close-up: 2006's Audition was his sophomore release on Rhymesayers Ent.

P.O.S. performs at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill.

byline=Sam Devine
position=, staff writer
photog=Alex Shonkoff




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