Like his acronymic name suggests, P.O.S is a man who is open to interpretation. Though he is best known by his stage name, his real one—the monarchal-sounding Stefon Alexander—might be a more accurate representation of his dexterity and weight as a musician. As a solo artist and member of two different bands (Doomtree and Marijuana Deathsquads), P.O.S’ creative ambitions can hardly keep up with his ability to execute them. Though he is largely recognized as a rapper, much of his music infuses elements of punk rock and metal into a unique sound pitted against equally commanding lyrics.
P.O.S’ latest solo album, We Don’t Even Live Here, explores means of escapism through rebellious themes. Several tracks are served over drums and synthesized dance beats in which likeminded people are encouraged to seek new outlets—ones without arbitrarily defined boundaries and limitations.
Shortly after the release of We Don’t Even Live Here, P.O.S was forced to cancel his national tour due to chronic kidney disease. Since then, he has been performing in moderation and working on side projects but recently joined Marijuana Deathsquads on tour, which P.O.S describes as a “total dance destruction battle.”
His music is demanding both in terms of intellect and genre-blending, but the enigmatic rapper himself is best described by the letters tattooed in cursive across his fists: “Optimist.”
LEA WEATHERBY: You’ve known the members of Doomtree for years, and you’re all obviously very talented people. You all happen to be from Minneapolis. I can’t say you won’t find that kind of talent anywhere else, but there is something special about it. How do you think Minneapolis is unique in that way?
P.O.S: I think it’s the fact that there’s never been a really big music industry there. There’s lots of bands, lots of music, and lots of musicians, but there’s never really been a major record label that’s tried to steer anybody, so all the creativity comes from bands liking other bands and then learning and building from there instead of a label saying, “Do this.” It’s got one of those scenes where, the bigger you get, the more the scene is making you prove it. It’s not the kind of place where everybody just pats you on the back.
WEATHERBY: Do you feel like there are cities that have the same passion for music?
P.O.S: Probably Seattle and Portland, but it’s different. Minneapolis is small, but it’s not so small, it’s small enough where you can make a bubble in your city and you’ll be able to take that out of the state. I love touring, I love going to other places and playing. Minneapolis people are everywhere, and they’re proud of their hometown so they bring their friends out to shows, and it kind of grows and goes from there.
WEATHERBY: Minneapolis is a well-kept secret no one seems to know about.
P.O.S: No one knows unless they’ve been there.
WEATHERBY: You make solo music as P.O.S, and then you’re also in two bands.
P.O.S: Then I’m a part of Doomtree and I’m a part of Marijuana Deathsquads.
WEATHERBY: You do a lot at once. Do you ever feel creatively torn?
P.O.S: No, I don’t think so. I think that if I wasn’t making different kinds of music and staying really busy with music, I’d go crazy. I love making songs, I love practicing and working on new styles. I love rapping and making beats. Marijuana Deathsquads lets me do the rest of the things I want to do musically.
WEATHERBY: How do you prioritize when you’re making music in a group and keep the same creative values?
P.O.S: We kind of put our heads together and get a theme for what we want the whole things to be about and after we get that theme we all split off into different directions and work independently and come back and compare notes. That’s actually the easiest writing I do because I am confident in everybody in the crew and I’m confident in myself. Working on solo rap stuff, P.O.S stuff is the hardest, because all of the pressure of making it good is on me. The most fun is probably Marijuana Deathsquads, because it’s so freeform.
WEATHERBY: I noticed you guys have signals when you’re performing, and you can tell you’re communicating throughout.
P.O.S: Signals and codes, mostly. One you’ll see the most is Ryan (Olson of Gayngs) sort of slapping the vein on his forearm, which means we’re going to switch tempos.
WEATHERBY: You’re obviously experimenting with a lot of different things, and some might not expect that there are also a lot of different genres that inform your music and hip-hop in general. How would you describe the music you make?
P.O.S: I think the best way to describe my music as a rapper is, I want to rap on beats that are more interesting than your average hip-hop beat. I grew up listening to metal, hardcore, and punk rock. I like things to sound urgent and noisy. I like taking pieces of rolls and trills and shoving them into a trap kit and making it all work. I like rap music that is about something and not necessarily always about partying or love.
WEATHERBY: You don’t really write too much about love.
P.O.S: I have two love songs in my entire history of being a rapper. I’m not a big love-song writer. I like love and I have a great time with it, but that stuff is covered. As of right now, I write about the world around me and how it’s beautiful or horrible and that’s where all that inspiration comes from, just being alive and spending time here.
WEATHERBY: How did you come up with the title for your latest album, We Don’t Even Live Here?
P.O.S: In spirit, it’s about escaping and having the best time ever and not being in a place where everything is confined or about money or politics but just escaping that and doing whatever you want.
WEATHERBY: Did you have any other ideas for the title?
P.O.S: The closest runner-up was Only Impossible Things Forever. [laughs]
WEATHERBY: [laughs] That’s a really good one.
P.O.S: I still might call something that.
WEATHERBY: You did a lot of collaborating on the last album. What track did you have the most fun with?
P.O.S: On the last record, me and Mike (Mictlan of Doomtree), “Get Down.” That was a really fun song to make; and I got the beat from my friend Patric (Russel) who used to play in a band called Innerpartysystem. That was a really fun band, and now he’s making beats and just killing it in the world. I lucked out and got that really good beat from him.
WEATHERBY: What would you say is the most critical song to the album that it just could not do without?
P.O.S: “Lock-picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats,” the middle track.
WEATHERBY: You’re making a lot of statements on the album about the world being shitty and maybe not the best place.
P.O.S: I think that things are shitty. I think there’s a lot that’s just wrong all the time. But the feel of this album is that, as bad as things possibly can get, you can grab a section of your people and make a consistently enjoyable life for yourselves and try to play outside of everything else. The world is set up in a way where you need money, you need A, B, and C in order to do anything, and that’s frustrating, and it sucks, and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it. They end up on anti-depressants or they end up hating their life or hating their job. I think that the vibe is to recognize that you can get by with less and to make the corners and the shady spots a happy and comfortable place.
WEATHERBY: Got any tips?
P.O.S: On how to do it? [laughs] Expect less and be happy with less.
WEATHERBY: I know you’ve had some health issues recently, how is everything?
P.O.S: I’m in New York, so I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t feeling good enough to be here. I’m on dialysis and it works fine, so hopefully I’ll have a new kidney by the end of the year and then I can tour really hard.
WEATHERBY: Friends and fans came through in a pretty amazing way and raised a lot of money to help out with the medical expenses.
P.O.S: It is amazing. I can’t not be amazed, when I think about it. It’s already been incredibly helpful, and I’m set up for an entire life full of insane health expenses, but I’m going to be all right. I have some beats for a new record already, I should probably have a new record out early next year, depending on health things, but that’s my plan.
WE DON’T EVEN LIVE HERE IS OUT NOW. MARIJUANA DEATHSQUADS EXPECT TO RELEASE A COMPLETE REMIX OF THE ALBUM TITLED POS WDELH MDS RMX LATER THIS YEAR.