"Never Better" by P.O.S.

P.O.S.
Never Better

Rhymesayers Entertainment
2009

Review

As P.O.S. himself states in the albums intro, "Sorry I took so long". In this case, I mean sorry it took me so long to write about what is undoubtedly one of my favorite Hip-Hop albums of 2009. Since this body of work represents the intersection of punk rock, drum and bass, and electronic music all cooked up in a warm Hip-Hop broth, I think that it is going to challenge the average Hip-Hop listener. But from my perspective, it is one of the most adventurous and somewhat challenging Hip-Hop records that I have ever heard.

It seems weird for me to say that this album is "adventurous" since it seems so evident that "Pissed Off Stef" is just doing what comes natural to him. This isn't an album that is trying to be the average Hip-Hop record by any means. Rather, it is simply a way for P.O.S. to express himself through music where rather than singing he spits rapid-fire rhymes over some extremely new and exciting musical backdrops. I hesitate to even call them "beats" because that seems far too simple of a label to place on them.

Many of the songs here alternate between a frenetic - end-of-the-world-like -pace and a quiet introspective and sometimes ambient one (which is usually accompanied acapella by "you'll have to play it again to understand it" lyrics). Take "Let It Rattle" where some apocalyptic beats are accompanied by some harsh, pissed-off lyrics and a backdrop that starts with just raw and wild solo drums that just continue to build until it explodes all over the place.

Explosiveness is something that you have to get used to when you listen to P.O.S. and musically you have to let your mind adapt to what you are hearing. Peep "Get Smokes" where the beat seems like it's going to be a total mess in the beginning. Then the trademark acapella until the beat finally starts to organize itself into something that causes your head to spontaneously nod.

It will come as no surprise that P.O.S. has a firm affinity towards Punk Rock music (as he himself explains in the semi-autobiographical "Out of Category") and all that goes along with that association (from the music down to the social philosophy) and that influence is heavy if not always obvious as it is on "Terrorish"; More crazy sparse percussion and odd syncopated drums mixed with a punk rock aesthetic that would make Tom Morello smile.

Of course, as I stated before this is all very much grounded in Hip-Hop and there are plenty of moments on here that non-adventurous Hip-Hoppers can get along to (see "Goodbye", "Savion Glover", and "Out of Category") but every time I listen to this album and I can't help but think how original this all is musically. I put this right up there with the new Felt album in terms of trying to just do something different and just really exciting. There are moments that I feel like I'm listening to a drum and bass album and others where I'm listening to an electronic album (think RJD2) but P.O.S.'s deft MC skills always gives it the Hip-Hop grounding that makes the musical medicine go down smoothly.

P.O.S. describes himself perfectly on "Low Light Low Life":

Never better
P.O.S.
Dance to the rhetoric
Lean to the left call me terrorish
Rock with it
Dance fever got em peeping out the place on the floor
True believers keep their eyes on the horizon
Catch me sizing up the silent
Check the crooked grime
Watch me 50/50 keep the balance between the coping and the feeble mind
I hope the broken folk rewind

This album might not do for the average Hip-Hop listener and to me, that's a shame because it is one of my favorite albums in any genre from 2009.

4.133 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Let It Rattle (03:33) 4
2. Drumroll (We're All Thirsty) (02:37) 2
3. Savion Glover (02:19) 4
4. Purexed (05:12) 3
5. Graves (We Wrote the Book) (03:14) 4
6. Goodbye (05:02) 5
7. Get Smokes (02:38) 5
8. Been Afraid (03:39) 5
9. Low Light Low Life (03:14) 5
10. The Basics (Alright) (03:23) 3
11. Out of Category (03:16) 4
12. Optimist (We Are Not for Them) (03:19) 5
13. Terrorish (02:13) 5
14. Never Better (04:03) 3
15. The Brave and the Snake / Hand Made Hand Gun (11:51) 5