Rebounding after a kidney transplant, rapper P.O.S. shows a different side

Stefon Alexander has a reputation as a versatile musician and lyricist, tackling social issues and rapping about everything from literary figures to pop culture.

But the artist who goes by the name P.O.S. is turning his gaze inward for his upcoming album, "Chill, dummy," due for release next week.

"It's not a political record, it's a very personal record," he said.

In many ways, the record reflects a rebirth. It's P.O.S.'s first offering since receiving a kidney transplant in March 2014. According to a Time magazine report, P.O.S. was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease as a teenager and was able to find an organ through a donor chain.

"It's coming off being sick and being quarantined from my friends and getting back to life," he said. "It's always difficult to look at yourself, but it wasn't difficult because there was a real sense that I needed to do this. I just kept writing and this is what came out. It wasn't something I consciously did."

P.O.S. said the album also represents a stylistic diversion, with more pronounced peaks and valleys: "The pretty moments are prettier, the slow moments are slower and the heavy moments are heavier."

The tour that brings P.O.S. to Alaska is also his first major foray on the road in quite some time. He was forced to cancel the tour in support of his last major album, "We Don't Even Live Here," released in the fall of 2012.


"I am in heavy anticipation," he said. "I love touring, so getting back to that world will be good."

It's a return to the road that almost never happened. P.O.S. had been aware of his health issues involving his kidneys, but didn't realize how far the situation had deteriorated.

"It's so close to you," he said. "You don't see yourself getting old when you look in the mirror. Your memory gets worse. You are more crabby. You feel so steadily worse every day."

Growing up in Minneapolis, P.O.S. found music as an escape.

In grade school, he moved from the inner city to the suburbs. As a black kid attending a largely white school, he felt like an outsider and his musical choices reflected that.

"I think music has been the defining thing in my life," he said. "Watching MTV in fourth grade made a lot of my identity. I was able to find my identity and my escape."

That escape came not only in the form of rap, but rock and punk as well.

While still in his mid-20s, P.O.S. formed Doomtree, a collective of local hip-hop artists. In the last decade, Doomtree has grown into a force in the industry, and founding members like Dessa and Lazerbeak joined P.O.S. in finding wider audiences.

"It's awesome," P.O.S. said. "It's also a work in progress at all times, as long as we're all doing things, we won't have time to look at what we've done."

Best known as a hip-hop lyricist, P.O.S. also has a seemingly endless string of side projects that showcase his musical versatility.

He played guitar and fronted punk outfit Building Better Bombs and is part of upper Midwest supergroup Gayngs, which includes Har Mar Superstar and Bon Iver creative force Justin Vernon.

Playing in those groups and others helped him develop his signature furious sound.

"I think being someone that grew up on rock music song structure has informed the way I make rap music," he said. "I'm easily bored by a lot of rap music if the beats don't change much."

And while in future work P.O.S. promises to take aim at old adversaries, "Chill, dummy" personifies his present.

"I am there," he said. "Whatever my subject matter is, it's me. That's the thing. I don't have hit songs. I don't have a thing I'm known for. It's me. A lot of the Doomtree people and our fans, it's about who we are as people and what we represent as people. The people who could relate before can relate now."


When: 8 p.m. Friday at Williwaw

Tickets: $25-$30 at (21 and over)


Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.