P.O.S built his reputation as an innovator, with an unlikely punk rock past and expressive, honest content. He re-earns the accolades with every release. He manages to capture his charisma on his records; they’re driving and sincere, the dark moments counterbalanced by some giggling banter with the engineer.
As a little kid, Stef developed a fascination with an older cousin’s bass guitar. Stef was allowed to take it home and he banged on it happily for years before realizing that it was intended to be played through an amp. “I just thought it was supposed to be a quiet instrument.” As a teenager, he fell hard for punk rock. Minor Threat, At the Drive-In, Refused, Kid Dynamite. He played in a series of hardcore bands, sometimes as a drummer, sometimes on guitar and vocals. From the start, he preferred basement shows to club gigs. Simultaneously, he pursued hip hop, rapping in the hallways and after school with classmates who would eventually found Doomtree Records. P.O.S released his first rap record, Ipecac Neat, on Doomtree in 2003. Soon it was re-released and widely distributed on Rhymesayers Entertainment. He built on this momentum with the release of the albums Audition (2005) and Never Better (2009).
Like many great rappers, P.O.S creates his own self-contained little microcosm-his characters become familial to us; we get in on his slang and inside jokes. His mother and his son Jacob emerge as familiar personalities. We know his politics too: P.O.S doesn’t hesitate to call out the compounding absurdities of pop culture, either with a little friendly ribbing or with a Molotov cocktail. On Never Better he drops deft one-liners that cut to the quick of America’s stuff-obsessed culture, “Can’t take it with them can they?
Some critics will be eager to categorize P.O.S’ work as a hybrid, a crossover of some kind. But it’s probably not. P.O.S is a rapper with range, he’s a real musician and an unstoppable performer. For him, genres are as they ever were: permeable.