Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A New Daddy Has Arrived

After a three-year hiatus, the long awaited album by Los Angeles duo People Under The Stairs finally dropped in April. Stepfather is twenty tracks of vintage PUTS that doesn't disappoint and makes their absence well worth the wait. I've often voiced to fellow hip hop heads my strong opinion that Thes One and Double K are the two most talented cats in the game today. This latest release is just further evidence that the two Angelenos are not only superior lyricists but absolute magicians in the production realm as well. Here's a glimpse at some selected tracks I currently have on heavy rotation.

Kicking off the album and getting fans hyped is the high-energy "Step In". Lyrically Thes One and Double K spit fire with a fast-paced frenzy of rhymes that come at you in a serious way. Thes shows us a little of his flow en espanol as well with "Seguimos con la onda nueva/ la bombetamax/ P elepe/ porque piraten los cds/ so accion..." "Step In" is a true party starter that gets your head nodding as well as your hips moving.

A lesson in rap 101 and nod to Black Sheep, "Pass The 40" has a stripped-down hardcore hip hop beat that screams for some street corner freestyle to accompany it. A base line you can cruise to with some ill scratching helps showcase the fresh rhymes reminiscent of shooting the shit with the boys on a porch or stoop somewhere. "Pass the 40 'cause my mother's not lookin'" speaks volumes as to the attitude, style and feel of these fundamentally-sound hip hop heads.

"Tuxedo Rap" brings alive hip hop of yesteryear when crews like Cold Crush ruled supreme. The beat has a 70s symphony funk to it with a violin sample used throughout. The syncopation of words and rhythms is reminiscent of classic MCees like Kurtis Blow, Grand Master Caz and the Almighty K.G. Also similar to these old schoolers is Thes and K's ability to tell stories and boast creatively of past rap glory.

The heartfelt "Days Like These" is a shout-out to all the loved ones that have shaped their lives and made them who they are today. From the strong women in K's life to the men from Thes' family who toiled in the fields, "Days" is a depiction of sacrifice and struggle and of the duo's deep appreciation for such efforts. The production sets a solemn and serious mood but keeps the head nodding and soul moving the entire time.

"Jamboree Pt. 2" paints the perfect picture of a weekend BBQ just winding down. It’s a jam that takes fans to that time of night when you've got a good buzz going from beer (and whatnot) and you begin bullshitting about times of old and the ladies you thought you had a chance with. The beat keeps the tone mellow and relaxed the way any good party should end.

Co-produced by Double K and the legendary George Clinton, "The Doctor and The Kidd" is a "rap" in the old school sense of the word. With his deep, rough voice, the genius that is George Clinton rambles some psychodelic knowledge and nonsense in an attempt to school us poindexters. George truly is "All looped up on that rap rhyme juice!"

Giving it up to the city they call home, "LA9X" is a tribute to Los Angeles and the great hip hop born in its streets. From the Pharcyde to Freestyle Fellowship, the two MCees reminisce over a smooth, light and dreamy track about the crews and the town that have inspired them. The perfect mood music to recall days of old and give praise to the City of Angels.

With a haunting chorus and an emotionally charged piano loop Thes and K get deep about relationships on "More Than You Know". The PUTS open up about forming stronger relationships with their significant others by learning from past mistakes, letting go of baggage and shedding fake facades. Thes and K share with the world the faults they see in themselves – as real as it gets in hip hop.

As with their last album, The P come through with a jammin' reggae infused joint on "Reflections". The wailing voice of Odell Johnson brings a spiritual rasta vibe to a funky beat that would inspire Bob himself. And like the pearls of wisdom Bob Marley used to impart in his music, "Reflections" speaks to the vices and distractions that can take control of our lives and lead us astray. Among the many jewels dropped on the song Thes One warns of "ignoring something inside/ like identifying with family, culture and pride/ you can't sell that inside of Walmart..." A revolutionary anthem for the ages.

With bass guitar that gets dirty like a porno flick (and I mean that in a good way!) I have to describe the track "You" as sultry and cool at the same time. This retro party song is a fun tag-team style rap between Double K and Thes One with well-placed scratch laced throughout. Evoking images of those great funk and soul songs from that era before hip hop, "You" could easily light up the dance floor at Odyssey 2001 and have those platform shoes pumping.

Enlisting the help of Crown City Rocker's one and only Kat Ouano, "On & On" rounds out the album in true PUTS fashion. As Kat works her magic on the keyboard one can envision a dimly lit bar with a jazzy cocktail in hand. And complementing this loungy-smooth beat is a flow that just goes... well... on and on. How good is this track you ask? In the words of Double K, "So good you can feel it/make a thief wanna steal it!"

A perfect melding of styles and sounds, Stepfather is a must-buy for fans of jazzy hip hop. With bass play that just grooves and drums that would make J Dilla proud, Thes One and Double K will have your headphones turned up for hours. From the beginning of the album to its very end, The P turn pure funk, soul, jazz and poetics into a hip hop masterpiece.

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