P.O.S. - Never Better (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Never Better (2009)


Indie hip-hop has emerged as a force as powerful and influential as any other subgenre of independent music in the past few years, with labels like Epitaph/Anti-, Ipecac, Definitive Jux and Rhymesayers embracing the genre and giving it the kind of independent credibility that it deserves. Musicians like Dälek, Atmosphere, El-P and P.O.S. are definitely among the most interesting musicians working in independent hip-hop right now, and are those most able to bring the oft-maligned genre to non-hip hop fans.

Like El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead, P.O.S.'s Never Better stands to represent the absolute best of the genre; embracing rock and punk rock but remaining far, far away from the tacky hip-hop/rock crossovers of the `90s, Never Better has more of a spiritual connection to punk rock than an obvious musical one. You'll find songs like "The Basics" and "Drumroll" using drum'n'bass, but providing more of the driving urgency of punk and hardcore without ever really sounding like it. P.O.S.'s Stefon Alexander is certainly aware of this connection, peppering the lyrics with references to hardcore and even chanting "This one's ours let's take another" from Fugazi's "Five Corporations" and featuring guests like Kid Dynamite's Jason Shevchuk.

Part of the appeal of the album is how decidedly different it sounds from other hip-hop and how distinctive the musical voice of Stefon Alexander has become since 2006's Audition. The album is relentless, with even slower songs like "Purexed" letting up only briefly before layering rolling drums over a memorable and melodic bassline. Samples are tasteful and diverse, with even guitar licks processed and sprinkled judiciously for effect, but not to provide a backing track.

Without a doubt, P.O.S.'s Never Better is one of the first highlights of 2009 and will definitely end up on many lists when the year is wrapped up.