CMJ Hip-Hop at the Knitting Factory


By Jess Goulart

Lizzo and P.O.S. at The Knitting Factory on Thursday night of CMJ Week in New York City. All Photos by Jess Goulart.

The Knitting Factory is less of a college hang out, more of a dive bar gone rogue. Like a recording studio, the space is split into two sections divided by soundproof glass – the front holds the bar, with a stage in the back.

An amalgamation of nefarious-looking trench coats, tattoos, trucker hats, and neon dresses flanked the older, markedly diverse crowd who gathered there Thursday night to check out the Minneapolis hip-hop line-up. In the end, the showcase was an excellent genre sampler. From jazz influences, to electronic, to punk, each performer brought a different flavor to their beats.

Female artist Lizzo’s highly experimental lyrics complimented her unusual inflections, adding depth to a synthesized beat that alternately crawled before sprinting. Her voice hit everything between a resonating bass and teasing schoolgirl treble, as she threw playful hooks into the crowd, like the favorite, “I got my batches and cookies.” In the background, a sliced-up sound incorporated funk elements and a shuffling late ‘70s bongo track on a two second loop.

P.O.S. at The Knitting Factory.

When P.O.S. (Stefon Alexander, of the indie hip-hop collective Doomtree) took the stage, it became immediately clear that he was the main attraction. Hoodies were shed as the room became tightly packed, the starry eyed front rows pressed right up to the edge of the stage. The set-up was intense – two full kits, a laptop mixer, and a synthesizer, all for the self-taught basist, guitarist, keyboardist, punk drummer, and rapper to effectively blow minds with.

Last year, P.O.S. was forced to cancel the tour he’d planned in support of the release of his new album, We Don’t Even Live Here, due to kidney failure and the necessity of a transplant. To help with medical bills he started a crowdfunding page which ended up nearly doubling his goal of $25,000. Thursday night P.O.S. told fans he’d flown in just to do this one performance, joking that “I didn’t know if I could go do it. And then I was like, I’m gonna go do it. And then I did it.”

The set nicely paired his older, punk-influenced standards with his new, electronic pop sounds blended with conscious lyricism all soaring easily over the multitude of background instruments. Considering P.O.S. could easily sell out a stadium back in Minneapolis, BTR caught up with him after the show for his thoughts on performing in a small venue in Brooklyn.

“I don’t necessarily feel any more connected to the room because it’s bigger or smaller,” he says, “every crowd is different, and people were definitely feeling it here.”

P.O.S. tells BTR that “Lock-picks, Knives, Bricks, and Bats” is the one track off his latest album he most wants people to hear, simply because “it’s everything I want to say.” He regrets not being able to stick around for the rest of CMJ, but reiterates that his schedule only allowed for one night in New York.

Marijuana Deathsquad (featuring P.O.S. on keyboards).

Though P.O.S.’s night wasn’t quite over. After a half hour break, he was back on stage manning the keyboard for the highly experimental noise band, Marijuana Deathsquads, a multi-talent project between himself, Ryan Olson of Gayngs, Isaac Gale, Ben Ivascu of Polica, Mark McGee, Jeremy Nutzman, and Drew Chistopherson, plus frequent outside collaborators. P.O.S. promised the act would “melt your face off,” and that turned out to be an apt description of the bass, drum, and electronics jam session that ensued.

All three performers had mics and computers that they used to create a profoundly unique, freestyle sound, with moments of precision beats and screams within a languid overall scheme. The act ended the night’s sampler with a glimpse into hip hop devolved into its most basic components – a beat, a bass, and a feeling.