Rhymesayers Entertainment just turned 20, and the Twin Cities indie-rap label is making a point to celebrate the anniversaries of its biggest releases.
Atmosphere’s Lucy Ford is currently in the midst of its 15-year anniversary, as is Eyedea & Abilities’ debut First Born; Brother Ali celebrated the 10th anniversary of Shadows on the Sun in 2013.
Ten years ago, Stefon Alexander, better known as P.O.S, released Audition. The powerhouse Doomtree MC had already dropped one album, 2004’s Ipecac Neat, though Audition was his first national release. As he recently told City Pages, his sophomore LP was titled Audition for that exact reason: It was his audition to the world.
A decade later, P.O.S agreed to revisit Audition -- which is being re-issued on blood-splattered vinyl -- track-by-track with us.
1. "Audition Ipecac"
City Pages: This one's 20-seconds of strings, so let's jump right into ...
2. Half Cocked Concepts
CP: How’d you decide to make this your opener?
P.O.S: It was about the beat. I wanted the beat of the first track to start off really jarring, and that was the most jarring beat that I had. [Laughs]
3. De La Souls
CP: This whole album feels very personal, but lyrically, this one seems especially personal. Would you agree with that?
P.O.S: A lot of my songs are pretty personal lyrically, but I code a lot of the lyrics and use a lot of metaphors, but this one was really pretty bare. That’s because I was trying to use the cadence envy, like, style, of the De La Soul Song “I am, I Be.”
4. Stand Up (Let's Get Murdered)
CP: This one gives off more of a fun, upbeat feel than the most of this record. The lyrics have a similar tone to the rest of the album, but it still works together.
P.O.S: I mean, that was just it. The album is called Audition because that was my first national release. I was trying to basically put the full showcase of what I could do on there, and that was definitely my stance, getting my piece and politics out. I don’t know if that makes any sense. So, songs like “Stand Up," putting my politics on it. And, that’s like the classic Lazerbeak beat on that, too.
5. Bush League Psych-Out Stuff
CP: You’ve got a couple tracks with Slug on the record. Did he volunteer, did you ask him, how did that interaction and collaboration come about?
P.O.S: I think [on that] song, I had the beat, I felt really good on the beat. I think we [Slug and P.O.S] were on tour together and we were like, "Hey, let’s write some songs."
By the time it was time to make that record, I know “Bush League Psych-Out" was written at Sean’s [Slug’s] house when he lived in Uptown. It was pretty fun. I think we kicked it at the CC [Club], had a few drinks or whatever, and worked out that song. That’s my recollection of it.
6. Paul Kersey to Jack Kimball
CP: Who are Paul Kersey and Jack Kimball, and what is that song about?
P.O.S: That song is about my uncle getting hit and killed by a driver. It was horrible. The name of the song is a reference to the Death Wish movies. Charles Bronson’s character’s name is Paul Kersey, where he buys a gun and becomes a vigilante. The title is about being really pissed off and wanting to exact revenge for a number of things that deserve to be avenged.
7. Safety in Speed (Heavy Metal)
CP: On paper, guys like Sean and Mike Mictlan make sense, because of the whole Doomtree and Rhymesayers thing. I know he’s from around here, but how did the Craig Finn collaboration happen?
P.O.S: I’ve always been a big fan of Lifter Puller, I’ve always been a fan of the Hold Steady, and I always thought that he was a super lyrical guy. I know I ride the line between punk rock and hip-hop and indie rock, and he was totally thrust in indie rock. But the way that, especially in the Lifter Puller stuff, the way that he delivered lyrics had a cool hip-hop feel.
So I felt like, with the right beat and tone set we could make something really cool, and I feel that I was totally right. I went out to Brooklyn, went out and did a show with the Hold Steady at this really cool show where I kind of ate shit at this Brooklyn crowd. After the show, I went back to Craig’s place; smoked some weed and we wrote that song.
8. The Kill In Me
CP: This song comes off as very violent. Is that an accurate short description?
P.O.S: It’s a breakup song. I had just a small handful of love songs, relationship songs, especially at that time. On my new record, I’ve got a couple really solid sounds that are in that zone, but in that record, I just didn’t know how to do that yet. So any time I tried to investigate those types of emotions, it’d either come off way too sappy or way too violent, and I feel like that’s kind of a nice combo.
That’s probably my least favorite song on the record. I feel like I came at that record very conceptually on it, and didn’t quite nail it. I feel like the record is super strong, and I feel like I didn’t execute that one the way I wanted to. That’s alright, though.
9. Yeah Right (Science, Science)
CP: With maybe the exception of “P.O.S is Ruining My Life," this is the might be the song with the strongest punk influence on the album.
P.O.S: "Yeah Right" is a sample from one of my all-time favorite bands, from anywhere, not just the Midwest, Song of Zarathustra. I just love how their songs are either in two chunks, or two-chunk bits. I was just really excited to pay homage to them by sampling the song. I feel like I never take the sample unless it’s super obscure, or it’s an homage to the band or the community that loves that band.
Any sample isn’t there, necessarily, to be a hit song, as much as it’s a nod to people that listen to Song of Zarathustra, or people that listen to At The Drive-In. Secretly sneak in my all favorites for the people that listen to them. You know?
10. Audition, MD
CP: I’ve been told that the "Audition, MD" interlude has a full extended version on the anniversary re-issue.
P.O.S: It’s kind of a pop song that is maybe one of the better songs on the record, because I thought it was way too poppy. Now I listen back to it, I think it could have been one of the top three songs on the record had I included it.
11. P.O.S is Ruining My Life
CP: What’s the significance of this song for you, the title and everything else?
P.O.S: That was my first song that people knew before it was out. I remember seeing people coming to see my play, and then they’d come back a couple months later and know all the lyrics of the song, even though it hadn’t come out for another six or eight months.
I sampled the band Underoath on it. When I did that, they were playing at Warped Tour, and I didn’t think it’d be an issue. I was like, "Hey, it’s this little band, I want to show them respect," but then a year later they were the biggest metalcore band of all-time [laughs]. So from there, held my breath, waiting to get sued, but instead, they brought me on tour.
I actually got the chance to play lead guitar for that band, just by chance. Their guitarist had a wedding, and I sat down and videotaped me playing all the parts, and got the dream come true of playing the main stage of Warped Tour with one of the biggest heavy bands that there is.
12. Living Slightly Larger
CP: This is one of the songs on the album that has a lot of repeatability. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record.
P.O.S: It’s one of my favorites too. I got the sample, made the beat, was very stoked on the beat. Mike [Mictlan] just came through, and killed it. I think I re-wrote my verse three or four times because Mike was so dope. I like when that happens.
13. Interlude (Suicide Uma Schrantz)
CP: Do you have any thoughts or memories from the "Suicide Uma Schrantz" interlude?
14. Bleeding Hearts Club
CP: How did you decide to make this your second single?
P.O.S: I think it was the second single because Slug was on it, and because it was catchy, and that was probably the right thing to do. I don’t know that I thought so much about making singles on that record. I wanted to make an impression on all the songs, and I didn’t care what song they picked.
CP: So, did you not have a huge hand in picking singles at this point?
P.O.S: I had plenty of a hand of it, I was just brand new to a record label, and was perfectly fine handing over the final decision to [Rhymesayers]. I came with the ones I thought, they came to the things they thought, and often I’d defer to them, because I just didn’t care about that too much.
15. A Teddy Bear and a Tazer
CP: Is this a song that is mostly about controlling your anger?
P.O.S: It’s like a lot of my songs. I has a loose theme, then it’s kind of just me freaking out around it. My favorite part about that song is Lazerbeak made the beat, then I took his session and made the second half of the beat when it’s all slow and broken. It’s like a song and a remix in the same song.
16: Audition Mantra
CP: The progression on this song is something very noticeable. From the calm beginning, where you’re just rapping the beat; towards the end you’re basically screaming. It’s almost a rock 'n' roll style of songwriting. How did this song come about?
P.O.S: I mean, that’s basically it, it’s exactly what you’re saying. I owe everything on that song to Jessy Greene, who has played violin on all of my albums at some point. She’s outstanding. I wrote the verse, and felt like, "Oh, this is super dope." But I didn’t have anything to add to it, so the idea of having it go on this beat, using the progression is something that’s been on all of my records. It’s been on this one, [2009 album] Never Better, and it’ll be back.