Venue: XOYO, London Date: 25 September 2012
Products of the same mid-to-late 90s West Coast underground scene that gave us the likes of Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples, Cali duo People Under The Stairs have spent the best part of the last fifteen years building and maintaining a reputation on wax as one of the most consistent acts of the post-golden-era years.
Having amassed an impressive discography which includes eight full-length albums, longtime friends Thes One and Double K have perfected their own brand of true-school rap, mixing a healthy dose of humour and fun with impeccable production and back-in-the-day lyrical sensibilities.
With seven years having passed since the last PUTS performance in the UK, this one-off London gig in Shoreditch’s intimate XOYO venue presented fans with an excellent opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with one of the game’s most unique acts.
Proving themselves to be as entertainingly unpredictable as always, Thes One began the show by playing a game of original Mario projected onto the stage’s back wall as Double K cut-up James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” in time with the iconic Nintendo theme music. After this leftfield intro the twosome launched straight into the rousing “Selfish Destruction” from last year’s brilliant “Highlighter” album.
The following hour was a masterclass in crowd-rocking, with the pair running through an obviously well-planned set whilst still maintaining an energetic atmosphere of improvisation and lively audience interaction.
Upbeat tracks such as the funk-fuelled “Tuxedo Rap” and “Trippin’ At The Disco” kept heads bobbing relentlessly, whilst Thes One really threw himself into his performance of the self-explantory “Beer”, sharing memories of the duo’s early alcohol-soaked visits to the UK before pouring the contents of his bottle over his head halfway through his verses.
Other unexpected highlights included Thes One banging out some live old-school drum sounds via an adapted piece of vintage studio equipment and the pair dropping a karaoke version of Cypress Hill’s “Hand On The Pump”, with Thes explaining that himself and Double K often recreated their favourite tracks whilst driving around LA together so they decided to try it onstage as well.
Something that was very apparent from looking around the venue was the youthfulness of the crowd, with older heads (such as this particular thirty-something blogger) standing-out amongst an audience who largely appeared to be in their early-to-mid-twenties. This observation also wasn’t lost on People Under The Stairs themselves, with Thes One joking that some members of the crowd looked like they would barely have been born when the two brothers-from-other-mothers began their musical careers.
But that being said, older PUTS tracks such as the hypnotic “San Francisco Knights” were met with the same enthusiastic response and word-for-word rhyming from those in attendance as newer material from more recent projects. All of which is a testament to both the timeless, universal appeal of Thes One and Double K’s music and also the dedication of their younger fans who’ve obviously taken the time to discover the crew’s earlier work, proving that the generational gap in Hip-Hop can be bridged by artists making quality material.
Closing with the melodic 1998 favourite “Time To Rock Our S**t”, the pair retired from the stage after once again thanking the UK for all the support PUTS had received from these shores since their early days struggling to make a name for themselves.
So taking the Los Angeles duo’s passion for their British fans into consideration, let’s hope they don’t leave it another seven years before they return to bless us with more of that good ol’-fashioned feel-good PUTS flavour.