The rap-rock continuum has made a treacherous splash as a genre in the past two decades, seizing musically-confused punks from suburbs across America. The mark of a rap-rock band or artist was that they somehow morphed hip-hop into an angry and Fender-based fusion, creating an outlet for fans to plug their teenage angst into. Channeling the hip-hop element into rock has built the success of broken bands and artists Korn, 311 and Kid Rock, but all of these former TRL staples have gradually faded from mainstream prospects.
With a wanton void to fill, current screamo bands have seized the minds of these empty rap-rock fans, demasculinating humanity one CD at a time. Luckily, P.O.S. has emerged from the wreckage as a hip-hop artist that finally realized how to mix the rap and rock genres without excessively vacillating between them.
Audition, the sophomore effort from Doomtree rapper P.O.S. (with the surreptitious moniker Piece of Shit), effortlessly invites the listener into what rap-rock should have been. Although the era may have passed to get it right, Audition still shows that rap-rock can be revived to be jaunty and accessible, rather than callow and excessive.
The key to the P.O.S. success is subtle order. What seems like discord usually is formulaic, charged with ferocity and fervor that captures the rock. The rap obviously stems from flow and rhyme, but P.O.S.‘s weave between everything from thunderous guitars to humming bass treks keeps the album’s play unsullied. The subject matter doesn’t fall too far from the emo tree either, giving the album a shade of personality while abstaining from taking itself too seriously.
From the beginning, the tone is set to gracefully arch over the entire album, building mostly on minor trills and dusky hits. The intro track “Audition Ipecac” mixes twangy cello plucks with fluttering violin flushes to build a thumping hip-hop bounce. P.O.S. refrains from getting ahead of himself by waiting until the second track to make his entrance, but when he snatches the mic on “Half-Cocked Concepts,” the P.O.S. glory is set in motion.
The first words of “Concepts” are shouted triumphantly: “First of all, Fuck Bush / That’s all, that’s the end of it.” While lyrics like this may bring about skepticism of whether or not P.O.S. is entirely serious, they suck listeners in regardless. The brazen electric guitar shocks, interspliced with a grungy bass twang, provide an anthematic introduction to the new world of rap-rock, where shouting isn’t about anger but about evoking excitement. If the scream of “Get up, get out, get up, and do something” on the chorus makes the listener uneasy at first, then the ironic verses should offer a means for comfort:
I’ve got a message in a bottle,
Written in gas and oil
Signed with a rag and match:
Audition is half anthematic, as rap-rock usually is, and tracks like “Stand Up (Let’s Get Murdered)” and “Yeah Right (Science Science)” capture the grooving dizzy of chopped and screwed hip-hop while ripping amps with crushing metal guitars. Almost all of these delicious tracks work, save “P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life”, the album’s lead single. The track, a hydrolic-bouncing rock show, fails only when the sing-songy chorus unbearably crashes down with the cliché melody of a screamo single.
But for an artist that makes screaming enjoyable, P.O.S. is equally aware of his duty to meaningful subject matter. The album successfully shows that rap-rock is not only about having fun, but also about social clairvoyance. On “De La Souls,” a track that features Greg Attonito from the Bouncing Souls, P.O.S. conveys more maturity than most (or any) rap-rocker has displayed in the genre. His sensibility is made clear with the lines:
Raise a black fist,
But won’t say *nigger* in the things I write.
And I don’t say *faggot* cause I don’t think it’s right.
Naturally, the words in asterisks are spoken by voices unaccredited in the liner notes. But by including these words on the track, P.O.S. is able to point out the hate and anger that causes some of both rap and rock to be disposable genres. Some tracks on the album capture some anger, but the sentiment is justifiable. “Paul Kersey to Jack Kimball”, produced by Doomtree in-house producer Lazerbreak, laments the unjust freedom of a driver that hit and killed P.O.S.‘s uncle.
Tracks like “Kimball” may be direly serious, but they signify the character of P.O.S. and the essence of Audition. P.O.S. captures the frenzy of both rap and rock separately, and combines elements from both genres that display remarkable sensitivity. The album ends where it begins with the tugging strings of the introduction, but leaves the listener with the broader sense that rap-rock has touched new ground, and it’s all thanks to P.O.S.