As Jimmy Jam points out, "producer" is just another word for songwriter. If you provide a singer with lyrics, melodies, arrangements, and samples, you're not just an engineer. P.O.S. produced most of his wildly ambitious new hip-hop album, Audition (Doomtree/Rhymesayers), as well as wrote the lyrics, so there's no question of authorship. What's left is an old prejudice that "songwriting" means sitting down with a guitar, paper, and pen. Yet the larger electronic canvas of modern composition excites the imagination far beyond the radio. "Mashup" producers—the pirates combining existing songs from starkly contrasting artists—are opening ears to what the mind can do. P.O.S. is one of the few American songwriters who is truly genre-blind on this level. "De La Souls" is his bid for skate-punk immortality as well as art-rap ascendance, a Kinks-like introduction to why he's not like anybody else. (He won't say the n-word, for instance, or "faggot": "I know a boy who's struggled with that for over half his life.") Strings by Jessy Greene and Bitsy Hanson anchor a patient beat with a rap cadence lifted from De La Soul's "I Am I Be" and a melody taken from Bouncing Souls' "Argyle" (a song twice as fast). Nothing else on the album borrows so liberally, and yet who else would have thought to combine these tunes? For good measure (and no hard feelings), Bouncing Souls singer Greg Attonito joins in on the chorus. P.O.S. has recently earned a national audience on the sweat of an energetic tour, but listen to the songs: That's where the future lies.


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