In the wake of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, rap-rock might seem neither contemporaneous nor appealing. Yet of late there's been a raft of Midwestern rappers -- like Cage, Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities -- trying to repurpose rock from a hip-hop perspective. But none of them match the intensity of Minneapolis' Stefon Alexander, a.k.a. P.O.S.
Growing up, Alexander gravitated toward punk rock, where he found purpose and an answer to his feelings of alienation. "It helped me define where my place was, and punk taught me a lot about how life works," he says. He learned to play guitar and started a punk band while in junior high, inspired by Black Flag and Minor Threat. Toward the end of high school, he came to appreciate rap, and for the past decade he's been forging an uneasy alliance between the two.
Across three albums, P.O.S.'s deft, spiraling rhyme, suggestive in tone and tenor of underground "backpacker" rap, merges with crashing guitars and ominous, clanging beats.
He's hit the road hard since the release of his 2006 second album, Audition. Three of the past four summers were spent on the Warped Tour, where he forsakes the stage for an equipment case on which he stands, surrounded by the crowd, collapsing the distance between the audience and performer in true punk-rock style. The close proximity only serves to energize him, as he seems to thrive like a street performer, making his case face-to-face.
Despite a steadily rising profile and diverse fan base, P.O.S. is less interested in looking backward than looking forward, and more enthused by the power of the people than by the ego of the individual. He says he relishes the challenge of converting new fans, and consequently spends much of his time supporting larger hard rock acts like Underoath (whom he sampled on Audition's thudding "P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life"), or metalcore tour headliner, Saosin.
And P.O.S. still harbors a passion for punk-rock provocation and rhetoric. He references Karl Marx on the politically tinged, 96-second track, "Yeah Right (Science Science)," and on his latest album, Never Better, he cops Fugazi's "Five Corporations" for the business-as-usual, blind-eye and bailout busting, emperor's-buck-naked ode, "Savion Glover."
Pac Tour featuring P.O.S., Saosin, Innerpartysystem and Eye Alaska. 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 29. Altar Bar, 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. $15. All ages. 412-236-2877 or www.altarbarpittsburgh.com