Wednesday, January 3, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1087: POS

Greetings gentle readers! I’ve had a week off during which I was rarely in a position to follow Rule #4 (Listening can only be done alone, and with no other activity other than driving, painting, or walking around). My apologies for the resulting hiatus but…I’m back!

We return with a trip into the world of what I believe the kids call “underground rap” which I think is basically the same thing as “indie” only for rap.

Disc 1087 is…We Don’t Even Live Here
Artist: P.O.S.

Year of Release: 2012

What’s up with the Cover? Not much. A flag and a P.O.S. logo designed to look like a sticker. This cover is a bad combination of boring and lazy, which is not what I expect from a rapper as thoughtful as P.O.S.

How I Came To Know It: I got into P.O.S. through his 2017 album “Chill, Dummy”. Digging backward through his catalogue I discovered “We Don’t Even Live Here”.

How It Stacks Up:  I have two P.O.S. albums, with “We Don’t Even Live Here” better than “Chill, Dummy” by a good margin. I recently bought “Chill, Dummy” as a Christmas gift for a friend. If I’d written this review before Christmas, it would have been this one instead.

Ratings: 4 stars

Protest music is a delicate art form. It can easily come off as hypocritical, didactic or just plain angry if poorly handled. P.O.S.’ “We Don’t Even Live Here” is protest rap that manages to avoid all these pitfalls.

P.O.S. is a Minneapolis rapper who is keenly aware of traditional rap culture but who thoughtfully manages to reject the stereotypical rapper persona even as he deftly recasts it in his own image.

The recasting takes the form of a rapper not obsessed with the trappings of wealth or sexual conquest, but instead focused on social upheaval and the rejection of capitalist structures. He’s still projecting coolness, still filled with braggadocio, and still complaining about “the man” but he wants to take his message deeper.

P.O.S. revels in donning the mantle of class warrior, calling for rallies, social activism and more than a hint of violent upheaval. Not only is he uninterested in the trappings of success that so much rap deifies, he is openly hostile to empty vanity and greed. If “Fuck Your Stuff”’s title doesn’t make that clear enough, P.O.S. underscores is with a chorus that threatens he and his crew will be “scuffing up your Nikes, spitting on your whip.” (FYI a “whip” is a car in rap slang – I’m not embarrassed to say I had to look that up).

P.O.S. isn’t just after “the man” he is after rappers aspiring to be “the man” as well. For him rappers who call for equality while obsessing about expensive champagne and fast cars are hypocrites that need to be exposed. Songs like “Wanted/Wasted” broaden that message, and call into question the American dream itself.

He is keenly aware – even proud – to cast himself as a rapper of a different ilk. His songs have an undercurrent of violent imagery, but it is even more raw because it evokes imagery that calls out entire systems, rather than the random street violence of some of his peers. Like this from “Weird Friends”:

“I ain’t like yall
I’m into weird shit
I’m in the back getting weird with my weird friends
Hugging a bass line
Hoping you feel this
And these rhymes ain’t tight they are terrorish
And that girl’s not white she’s an anarchist
And we float like kites through your turbulence”

On “Get Down”  he raps:

“It ain’t nothing but a Doomtree Goon thing
Get your face peeled off homeboy
Uday Hussein, barehanded, ripping them
Beware citizen, terror got a new face
Class war hooligan.”

Some of these aggressive references to both terrorism and mad dictators had me feeling uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure that was the point.

Regardless of how you feel about P.O.S.’ worldview, there is no denying his talent. He spits rhymes over all manner of beats and experimental sounds –sometimes with no accompaniment at all – showcasing range and a natural ability to drop a flow that commands attention and draws you in.

I don’t like everything that P.O.S. does but I admire him for always pushing the boundaries of his genre, both musically and lyrically. “We Don’t Even Live Here” is him hitting on all cylinders.

Best tracks: Fuck Your Stuff, Wanted/Wasted,  They Can’t Come, Fire in the Hole/Arrow to the Action, Get Down, Weird Friends/We Don’t Even Live Here

No comments: