All artists need to begin somewhere, some sort of flirtation with a mode of expression that drew them in and captured their attention from the start. For Stefon Alexander that mode of expression was punk rock. While in high school, Alexander and a few friends played in Om, a band that lasted until its members graduated and moved on to college. This left Alexander with a dilemma, how would he continue to express himself without his bandmates? Alexander’s answer came in exploring rap.
“I scrambled to start doing something else right away and I wanted to do something that I didn’t have to count on other people being around [for]. Without hip hop I’d probably go totally crazy. I don’t talk very much and keep a lot to myself,” said Alexander from his tour van as it was crossing the desert into Arizona. “If I didn’t have some sort of outlet to just feel free, I’d probably go crazy.”
Alexander is better known by his stage moniker P.O.S. Last February, Alexander released Never Better, his third album, and is currently on a North American tour. While most may consider the jump from punk rock to hip hop a large one in terms of style, Alexander felt it was just another outlet for his thoughts and words.
Hip hop wasn’t exactly foreign to Alexander, he had listened to mainstream hip hop while in high school as well artists signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment, a local Minneapolis, Minnesota hip-hop label. His exploration of hip hop led him to found the hip-hop collective Doomtree with a high school friend, MK Larada. Doomtree soon expanded to include a number of fellow Minneapolis artists.
Following his first release as a part of Doomtree, Ipecac Neat, Alexander caught the attention of Rhymesayers and had his debut re-released through the label. In 2006, he released a second album with Rhymesayers entitled Audition.
Never Better came after a three-year absence that Alexander used to focus on releasing material as part of Doomtree and collaborating with other artists within the collective. If anything stands out on the album it’s the explosive, raw drumbeats that Alexander manages to roll rhymes alongside. It’s not much of a stretch to say that his early foray into punk has certainly left a mark on his style.
“I like to hear songs that are active, songs that make you want to listen to the song more,” explained Alexander. “I don’t love songs that you just turn on and listen to in the background.
Never does Never Better settle into the background, Alexander’s strong sense of rhythm and socially aware, sometimes self-critical, lyrics are always at the forefront. Not only did Alexander write Never Better while on the road touring, he also turned his van into his centre of inspiration.
“It’s the only place I have to listen to music as loud as I want, 24 hours a day,” said Alexander. “I throw beat on, drive around until I feel inspired and then just pull over and start writing.”
As for the meaning of his emcee acronym, there’s been a number of possibilities tossed about and speculated upon. Everything from “Pissed Off Stef” from his punk rock days, to “Product Of Society,” “Plain Old Stefon” and “Piece Of Shit” have been mentioned. However, Alexander has only one thought about the acronym.
“I regard it as possibly the worst rap name there ever was. It’s too late to change it. You got to be a total unknown or you got to be super famous in order to change your name,” laughed Alexander. “Until I slide back down or climb a little bit more up I have got to leave it.”