An Interview with P.O.S.
Twin Cities native and WHRB DJ David “Gonzo” Gonzalez-Dysinger talked to Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. before his February 2nd show at The Sinclair in Cambridge.
David: So, new album Chill, dummy; what does this mean for you as an artist? Sorry, I know that’s kind of a vague question.
P.O.S.: It means the struggle years between We Don’t Even Live Here, finding out I was sick, and right now, have been like summed up and put out so I can go back to making mean songs about other stuff.
David: Have you been working on the album for the past six years or did you take some time off?
P.O.S.: I take a lot of time off all the time. I don't enjoy making music by myself. I don't like making music when it doesn't seem fun, so I spend a lot of time just like not making music or making different kinds of music that aren’t rap records. But this record I started in earnest last January, and I really put the big work into it maybe three months before it came out.
David: You crowdfunded your kidney transplant, right? How’d that come about.
P.O.S.: The transplant didn't get crowded funded, but the fact that I had to stop touring and all of a sudden get a bunch of help money-wise for medical stuff. Or the fact that I had to cancel a tour and I'd planned on existing off of that tour money and having to spend all of my reserve money on health stuff, and then not also have a way to live because I wasn't going on tour, not supporting the record it was all that. But yeah, Doomtree set up a Go Fund Me and I think we asked for like twenty grand or twenty five and got double. Very cool, very appreciative, and I still read the comments people left me to boost myself up if I’m feeling all beat up cause I was crazy. [Laughs]
David: Wow. Definitely a bad position to be in but great to know you have that network of fans that really support you.
P.O.S.: Yeah! It really is great.
David: So I want to talk about Sleepdrone/Superposition. It’s a really striking track. You deal with a lot of different topics on here, especially police shootings of unarmed black people.There’s been a lot of activism in the Twin Cities about this, but I think like in certain ways it took the Philando Castile shooting for people to really understand that this is something that can happen even in our own backyard. How have you been getting involved with activism about this?
P.O.S.: I mean, I try to speak out. I try to put some stuff in the lyrics. I try to retweet the right people who have the same kind of views, and I try to speak up a little bit, but I try to keep it to that. I mean, I'll show up for marches and protests and do my part but, I personally feel like a lot of times I advocate for things where people should be going a little bit harder and people don't necessarily want to hear that. People aren’t necessarily ready to put their lives on the line of for a lot of this stuff yet, and I think that as Trump's presidency goes on people maybe will. We’ll see. I feel like there needs to be serious protests next to nonviolent protest at all times, I think. Not that nonviolent automatically means it's not serious, but, I mean, there should also be more active protest as well.
David: How’d you get Kathleen Hanna on Sleepdrone/Superposition?
P.O.S.: We asked her really nicely, and then she asked for the lyrics, and I sent over the lyrics and she thought the lyrics were pretty good. Then she recorded a toooon of stuff, and I couldn't even figure out where to put all of it because she sent so much stuff. She sent, I want to say, maybe thirty-forty minutes worth of like, kind of speaking. I gave her a little idea of what I wanted her to speak about, about the concept of superposition. We also ended up using the backup vocals she sent, and the snips that we did were because they were the most poignant of the song, they were th'e best fits. I feel super lucky that she was on there.
David: So your son's also on that song. How’d he start rapping?
P.O.S.: He’s been rapping for years, I'd say probably four years already. It would be cool to be able to say that he was super influenced by me and that’s why he started rapping, but I think that, more realistically, he just is a part of culture too. He's also from me so he's pretty decent at it. [Laughs] He’s good. He’s actually here tonight.
David: Is he trying to make that his thing, or what?
P.O.S.: I mean it is his thing, you know? Aside from going to school it's really what I see him spending the most time doing. Like on social media and in his spare time, is making music, playing music, and looking at girls I think. [Laughs]
David: Do you think he's going to try to follow in your footsteps and be a professional rapper?
P.O.S.: Umm, I don't know. I don't know if he would want to be a professional rapper or if he wants to take it as more of a hobby after it gets a little more serious, because, you know, it is not the easiest job ever. But I think that he can do it! He's on tour, I brought him out, he's out here for the first week and he's been kind of killing it, so we'll see.
David: On the song “Pieces/Ruins” the chorus goes "All of the places we love have been left in ruins". What is this referring to? Is it talking about something specific?
P.O.S.: Yeah, in Busdriver’s verse he's thinking about something specific, and on Dwynell [Roland]’s verse he is and I’m thinking about something specific too. But the song conceptually is just talking about, you know, growing up and gentrification and the way places change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
David: On “Infinite Scroll” you say, "I'm a professional profession skipper/Never been a job I didn't quit to hit a stage and rip it". This made me curious. What jobs did you work before you started doing music full-time?
P.O.S.: [Laughs] Umm, I worked at Dairy Queen. I worked at assorted coffee shops all over the place. I worked as like a stagehand, sandwich shop, men's room attendant at a strip club. Which consisted of like wearing a suit and handing out bubblegum, that kind of shit. But yeah, I haven't worked since 2004. That was the last job I had actually, was the men’s room attendant job.
David: Your songs tend to avoid conventional song structures, not just on this album, but all across your discography. What's the writing process like when you don't have this intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus mold to follow?
P.O.S.: I mean, I feel like I do have a mold, it's just the mold that me and my friends made. Me and Dessa and Cecil [Otter] and Sims and Mike [Mictlan] all write songs that are very similar to each other. We’ll have a song with a really really long verse and then a short chorus and that’ll be the song. Whatever these formats are, these are things that we've heard each other do. So I don't really think about how I’m going to do it. You just make the beat and you go to the beat, or you write the words and you make a beat that fits exactly the way you want it to. Or you just find a beat and just rap and its verse/chorus/verse, but for the most part we don't ever land on that. Except on Doomtree records just because they're so much more… Like, rappers trying to make space and then the producers take it and cut it up and make sure it's not boring.
David: So you and the Doomtree crew clearly support each other a lot, but there aren’t any Doomtree features on this album. What’s up with that?
P.O.S. It was weird for me because I didn't really think about that until it was all done. I was taking forever with the record and Lazerbeak [one of P.O.S.’s producers] was like “OK, well here's your release date” and I was like “Oh so there's a date before it's done?” and he was like “Yeah if that’s what it takes to get it done.” And then by the time it was done I was like “oh yeah, this is a pretty good record. Oh no, this a great record! Oh no there's no Doomtree guys on it.” It wasn't conscious, it was very much like this is the best of the batch of songs I made.
David: Is there any new Doomtree stuff coming out?
P.O.S.: Yeah! Me, Sims, and Lazerbeak just hit a cabin and started a bunch of stuff. Not just for the three of us, we were just the people that were at the cabin. So we'll see what happens with this one. I know Paper Tiger was on the phone every single day, we're talking to Mike Mictlan, everybody. Yeah, there’s music coming.
P.O.S.’s new album Chill, dummy is out now via Doomtree Records. You can find it, along with his complete discography, here.
David Gonzalez-Dysinger is the Department Head of The Darker Side.