As one of few hiphop devotees on the annual Warped Tour punk caravan, P.O.S. inherently fights a constant uphill battle. There aren't many screams or keyboards in his club tour set, and if there's anything notable about his pants, it's that they're from the men's department and they bag. Slightly. And yes, though he's an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and punk/hardcore/straight-up rock enthusiast, his music of choice is hiphop.
In other words, there aren't many dudes like him in Warped's catering line. And when the tour's sound system overheats during his modest set—basically just him, a mic, and some turntables—as they have today, things invariably go to shit. "Today is my worst day on the Warped Tour," he says. "We're in St. Louis, it's 95 degrees out and about 400% humidity. The whole Warped Tour system is just not working for us today."
Fortunately, P.O.S. has seen this happen before. He first played Warped three years ago, spitting lines from empty stages when he wasn't busy selling t-shirts for Rhymesayers labelmate Atmosphere. But what surrounds him today, just three years later, is drastically different from what he remembers. "This is probably the worst Warped Tour I've ever been to," he explains. "I hate to say it so bluntly, but a lot of these bands are just not genuine. They're riding whatever trend they can as hard as they can, and since they're pretty enough and their songs are catchy enough, they get a record deal. I just don't like all the posturing. We're all making the same fucking money here, yet they're all acting like they're fuckin' rich. I'm having a great time. I just wish there were more than five bands I wanted to watch."
And though he's made his name in hiphop, P.O.S. knows well of what he speaks. Before adopting his current emcee handle, P.O.S. was best known as Stefon Alexander, drummer for sharp-witted Minneapolis post-punks Cadillac Blindside. His second album for Rhymesayers, Audition, features guest contributions from guests from the Bouncing Souls and the Hold Steady, as well as a bracing guitar hook lifted from Underoath. So while it may seem peculiar to see him on Warped—or on tour with bands like Minus the Bear—P.O.S.' musical roots run deep, and don't bother with borders. Ultimately, the man (and, as a result, his music) is unique because he sees symmetry between hardcore punk and hiphop in places that, most of the time, others don't. "They're both music for displaced people in some way or another," he explains. "But at Warped Tour today, people are walking by going, 'Give me the mic!' because I'm a rapper. You're not going to go up to the Bouncing Souls and go, 'I can play guitar. Let me play!' These people don't have any respect for hiphop, so I have to convince these guys that I'm not doing something they've already decided they hate. A lot of these hardcore kids, they don't like hiphop, yet don't mind wearing their hat to the side and sporting a bandanna."
Thing is, much as others lift style accessories for scene points, it's music that gives any scene its substance. At least the foundations beneath the crossover path P.O.S. is pioneering are authentic.