The difference between a punk and pissant is what happens after the molotov gets tossed. For the past two years, rap has felt bloated by a variety of squawking young things spitting about rape, death and generally menacing society. Whether the two headed monster at the top of Odd Future (Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt) or the next level anger-therapy of Death Gripz, the rap game is getting more vocally punk, if not militantly so. But notice that Death Gripz didn’t jump off that ledge, and Tyler only ever manages to get into fights with equally outspoken audience members.
Stefon Alexander, P.O.S., exists in the ultra-fertile middle ground between those anger-rap talking heads and the moralistic midwest underground populated by friends Astronautalitis and Alexander’s label Doomtree. He inhabits the dark-rap headphone music sphere, most notably on the thoughtful, excellent Never Better. But when his blistering vocal style is getting co-opted by rappers far below him, Alexander’s dark-rap needs of a bit of an update. Thus, We Don’t Even Live Here. An alive, emotionally caustic sprint through the best that the Minneapolis rap scene has to offer, P.O.S.’s fourth album is his most accessible outside of headphones. Party rap for the militant, regularly brilliant above all else.
“I’m probably not welcome at your protest,” Alexander mentions on the percussive racer burglary of “All Of It.” The worst part of this statement is that it says more about us than Alexander. What Occupy and other underground movements have done is bring issues to the fore, but for an anarchist like Alexander, the fun’s not in pointing out the flaws, it’s destroying them. “We break in / just so we can smash out,” or so he goes on the even faster “Weird Friends.” In a easy to toss off bridge from that song, he laughingly insists to an un-mic’d friend that a certain thing isn’t broken, it’s better. That world view informs all of the near-perfect second half of We Don’t Even Live Here. Just when you think P.O.S. can’t go any faster, he pulls out his own version of chopped vocals for the chorus of “Weird Friends.” The beats play into this too, always on the industrial side of manic.
Self-sustainability and isolationism permeate Alexander’s worldview. Being a rapper from the upper midwest can do that to a man, but the increasing cache of Alexander’s Doomtree commune has ticked a box inside Stef’s head. Now, instead of feeling like an outsider in a world of misanthropes, We Don’t Even Live Here is a celebration of a specific outsider culture. Anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-just about everything, We Don’t Even Live Here’s opening salvos (the alarming “Bumper” and blues-rap rock out “Fuck Your Stuff”) builds a world out of pissing people off simply because everything we own is fake. From a marketing perspective, We Don’t Even Live Here’s thesis makes you feel almost criminal for buying a record like this. But such is the reality of a gang with a rigid socio-economic mission statement.
Alexander’s seldom sidekick, Lazerbeak, doesn’t get mentioned enough keeping up with Stef’s constantly gestating snarl over multiple album. Here he speeds up the tempos of almost all of his beats, forcing Alexander to flex his intricate rhymes around skittering and skuzzy undercurrents of bass. On one of the funkier trips, “How We Land,” Lazerbeak incorporates scattered hi-hat hits with vox-warped sing-songiness from Stef and a atypically flow-y Justin Vernon. Nothing seems out of place on We Don’t Even Live Here. Everything fits the thesis, above everything feeling like a genuine love letter to anarchy.
Which is what separates P.O.S. from all the other miscreants that have sprouted up past him in the past two years. While they just want to watch the world burn (hell, Tyler “killed” the other members of Odd Future on Goblin), Stefon is huddling with his friends in the cold north, comforted by a participatory anarchy that doesn’t just scream “fuck the world,” it says “fuck shit up, it makes you better.” It’s easy to burn stuff down. P.O.S. does a lot of it on We Don’t Live Here. But the more important thing, the thing that infuses the album with the life it has, is the camaraderie Stefon Alexander shares with his crew to build a model for self-improvement in the flames.
P.O.S. – We Don’t Even Live Here tracklist:
- “Fuck Your Stuff”
- “How We Land” (feat. Justin Vernon)
- “Wanted/Wasted” (feat. Astronautalitis)
- “They Can’t Come” (feat. Sims)
- “Lock-picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats”
- “Fire in the Hole / Arrow to the Action”
- “Get Down” (feat. Mike Mictlan)
- “All of It”
- “Weird Friends (We Don’t Even Live Here)”
- “Piano Hits” (feat. Isaac Gale)