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He laughs. "I just wish Pharrell was around when I was 14, so people could just be like, 'Oh, he's like Pharrell.' I'm proud to be black, that's my people. But bottom line, my family, my culture, is the people I'm related to through blood and Doomtree."
When the back door opens, a pale guy named Josh Syx comes out. He's Doomtree's photographer and he plays guitar in Kai Benson's other punk band, the Swiss Army. SA recently became the first group to be signed by Women Records, a new rock label launched by Atmosphere's Slug. Hip hop and punk, never strangers in Minneapolis, are more incestuous than ever.
"I like how you have a bottle of rum in your car," says Syx, climbing in back next to a box full of posters and pulling out a half-empty container of rotgut rum. "Are you a pirate?"
A black skull dangles from the mirror.
"Yeah, I am," says P.O.S.
4) P.O.S. = Promise of Skills
5:15 p.m. Volkswagen Golf, 6th Street and Second Avenue South, heading south
The rapper makes seven stops with his vehicle during the course of our interview, picking up and dropping off various members of Doomtree for a photo shoot. Normally, the red moptop named Bobby Gorgeous--a sort of leader and cheerleader for the crew--would be doing this stuff. But as the sun starts to drop for the day, he's still asleep from the night before. So is DJ Tom Servo (Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will get the name).
"Every day I wake up, hang out, go get some coffee at Urban Bean, usually go to Cheapo, look at records for a minute, go to St. Sabrina's and hang out with Billy for a minute," P.O.S. says. "Billy is my tattoo artist and the cover model for my record. Then I go home and I hang out for a while. And then I usually either go to work"--parking cars at Rick's Cabaret three days a week--"or go to the liquor store."
He shops for the group, he says, but doesn't drink to excess. "I like being in control," he says, "and I want to be able to answer the phone if somebody like you calls." Besides, he's already gone down that Drew Barrymore road, discovering nicotine and speed before he was a teenager, and joining Alcoholics Anonymous seven years before he reached the legal drinking age. It was in AA that he first met the mother of his now four-year-old son, Jacob. His sponsor was the guy who got him into hip hop, playing him Company Flow for the first time--"It was pretty much punk to me," P.O.S. says--and even forming a group with him, Room 237.
Promise of Skills' first show rapping in public was a festival at the queer youth center District 202 on Nicollet Avenue.
"It was all punk bands and lesbian folk singers," he says. "And I was a little kid with a Mohawk rapping. Right after I got done, my punk band played."
The last stop P.O.S. makes is to pick up Doomtree's only female MC, Dessa. She, too, notices the bottle in back. "Nice," she says, smiling.
Dessa is tall and striking, with long brown hair. For press photos, P.O.S. says she can look like a "Puerto Rican thugstress" or a "slam poet," depending on whether she's wearing her glasses.
She has enough pull with the rapper to tell him to do things like show me his tattoos: hummingbirds stabbing each other on his right arm, "Antarctica" on his chest. It's telling, I think, that this guy would carve the loneliest continent across his breast in three-inch letters. It's also telling that he says he loves Dessa, whose intelligence can be intimidating and whom the group invited to join Doomtree behind his back, in order to avoid the Yoko thing.
On the ride back to the Doomtree mansion, the couple has the easy rapport of kids who wake up in each other's underwear.
"You wanna play chicken?" P.O.S. says, doing his best Charles Bronson. He's talking to an oncoming car now on a narrowing street. The opposing vehicle swerves to avoid us. "All right then. I ween."
"Stef 17, world 0," says Dessa.
An essayist and a poet, she raps and sings in the hip-hop trio Medida, sharing another band house and studio two doors down from Doomtree, the old Wookiefoot headquarters. That stoop is where she met P.O.S., who always would stop to share a smoke with whoever was there.
"Stef was driving by, this big black man in a very small green car," she says. "He was in a Festiva and it said 'Doomtree' on the side. I thought, 'Who the fuck is that?'"
He came over to talk to a friend of hers, but P.O.S began trading barbs with Dessa so quickly that her friends assumed they knew each other. For their first date, he invited her to split a bottle of whiskey under a highway overpass. "You know, my mom was right to warn me about you," she says.