Since Ipecac Neat, P.O.S. [click to read] has been labeled an innovator for his use of unorthodox beats and a strong, unconventional flow. With a homogenous – often blurred blend of Rock and Rap, he’s never been accused of forced attempts, breaking from the Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit acts. Instead, P.O.S. channels the Downtown styles spawned by Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon or the Beastie Boys. Never Better shows P.O.S., a member of the Rhymesayers camp, crafting a highly anticipated follow up to 2004’s Audition [click to read].
This time the punk rock has gotten heavier, the drums both faster and harder and the unconventional beats may scare off a few listeners as P.O.S. mans the boards for the bulk of the album. “Drumroll (We’re All Thirsty)” is the first single and a fine example of this. It sounds more like a punk track than a rap song, finding its beat when P.O.S. spits and then speeding back up to a fury of a pace. But the blending of Rock and Rap is best shown on “Terrorish,” and “Never Better,” songs that stabilize the genre mixtures to enhance positive features of both with an almost unblemished execution.
When he falls back into a steadier pace, it’s nothing short of excellent. “Goodybye,” “Never Better” and “Been Afraid” add melodious hooks to balance with the strong raps and drums. The latter song focuses on the troubled life of a young girl who grows up to fall in love, without corniness, instead full of harsh truths about abuse and the healing process. His personal portraits on wax add meat to the album, including the spotlight on identity in “Out of Category.” “Optimist” goes through another array of personal lines, even drenched with facts on how the song was created. “Money in the bank, with a lot of you to thank,” he raps over a tailor-made instrumental.
There are some gripes with the album, though. Anytime an old song is recycled, it has the potential to cheapen the art. In this case, “Savion Glover,” a track featured on Doomtree‘s False Hopes LP [click to read], appears with only minor changes. The very short “Get Smokes” is another song that fails to leave up to its peers on Never Better.
Still, P.O.S.‘ creativity and passion to innovate has not been lost. Lyrically, he hasn’t changed much, sticking to a “decipher this” approach while mixing in straight forward narratives and deep tales to keep it even. With its Kanye West-like packaging and artwork making headlines, a time when acts like TV On The Radio and Gym Class Heroes are becoming iPod all-stars, for P.O.S., with a charged album, the timing is Never Better. Similar to Cannibal Ox‘s The Cold Vein‘s [click to read] demonstration of electronic music and Hip Hop raising a standard, this album cements Rhymesayers‘ next truly great emcee, after Slug [click to read] and Brother Ali.