Tag Archives: People Under The Stairs

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Three) – KingDem / Apollo Brown / Ray Vendetta etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Fly Anakin & Big Kahuna OG – “Holly Water” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com) – Raekwon and Ghostface. Erick and Parrish. Run and DMC. There are some emcees who were simply meant to rhyme together. Mutant Academy’s Fly Anakin and Big Kahuna OG can also be added to that list. Following up their four-part “Big Fly” EP series, the Richmond, Virginia duo delivered arguably their finest work to date in the form of this album, blending their undeniable skills with smooth, intoxicating production.

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Phyba & Giallo Point – “René Mesrine” (CDVZ.BandCamp.Com) – 2019 was an extremely busy year for producer Giallo Point, with this project alongside fellow UK resident Phyba just one of a handful of collabo releases helmed by the talented music man. Revisiting the cinematic undercover spy-themed flavour of their previous work together, the combination of Phyba’s laidback, nonchalant delivery and Giallo’s atmospheric sonic drama once again made for a uniquely captivating listening experience.

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People Under The Stairs – “Sincerely, The P” (PL70.Net) – Bringing their twenty year musical journey to a suitably impressive end, Thes One and Double K’s final album was another finely-tuned selection of funky beats, spontaneous energy and proud West Coast attitude, held together by the duo’s seasoned wisdom and genuine gratitude to fans for sticking with the PUTS brand over the last two decades.

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Rick Hyde – “Plates” (RickHyde.BandCamp.Com) – Buffalo, NY emcee-slash-producer Rick Hyde delivered personal, emotionally-charged street-level rhymes on his debut album, executive produced by Griselda’s Benny The Butcher and featuring beats from DJ Shay, IceRocks, Chup and more.

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Motman & Micall Parknsun – “Everyday Craft” (Motman1.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol emcee Motman dropped honest, down-to-earth rhymes over quality production from the ever-impressive Micall Parknsun on this long-player, with lyrical assistance from Flowtecs, Gee Bag and Ray Vendetta.

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Westside Gunn – “Flygod Is An Awesome God” (GrisdeldaXFR.Com) – The Griselda juggernaut continued to steam-roll its way through the rap scene with this summer release from WSG, a worthy addition to the crew’s collective catalogue, featuring the Buffalo emcee showcasing sharp, street-related verses over elegantly raw production from the likes of The Alchemist, Evidence and DJ Muggs.

Rashad ThaPoet x The BeatHead – “Jefferson Street Blues” (RashadThaPoet.BandCamp.Com) – Nashville, Tennessee emcee / spoken word artist Rashad ThaPoet balanced the promise of the American Dream with the reality of the Amerikkkan Nightmare throughout this impressive BeatHead-produced EP, offering poignant, thoughtful observations on politics, race and the shortcomings of society.

Hubbs – “Tony Peña” (Hubbs.BandCamp.Com) – The Pittsburgh-based lyricist flexed his conversational-yet-authoritative flow to good effect on this quality, baseball-influenced project, backed by smooth, laidback production from the likes of Nysceworkk, Billy Hoyle, JR Swiftz and more.

Louis Cypher – “Cypher Sore Eyes” (BoomBap.BandCamp.Com) – Having been a consistently reliable outlet for quality Hip-Hop over the last fifteen years. UK label Boom Bap Professionals presented this free EP from Punning Clan member Louis Cypher, featuring the Nottingham-based emcee putting a nice selection of beats from DJ Severe, Kastanza and Pete 1st Blood to good use.

Chris Skillz & Storm Watkins – “Creer” (ChrisSkillz.BandCamp.Com) – A  naturally gifted emcee, Delaware’s Chris Skillz lived up to his name on this five track EP, blessing the dope, sample-heavy production of Baltimore’s Storm Watkins with a stream of captivating, well-crafted verses, accompanied by Left Lane Didon, All Hail Y.T. and Ronnie Alpha.

Leaf Erikson – “A Canvas Of Hope” (LeafErikson1.BandCamp.Com) – The first of three planned projects dedicated to his Detroit stomping grounds, emcee Leaf Erikson used this project to weave together Motor City stories grounded in “tragedy, triumph and the journey people experience along the way” accompanied by the subtle production expertise of Meftah.

Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush – “Clark Connoisseurs” (BugzyNino17.BandCamp.Com) – Showcasing a shared passion for Clarks footwear that even Ghostface would be proud of, LA’s Supreme Cerebral and New Jersey’s Eloh Kush combined forces on this Wallabee-influenced collection of punchy wordplay and suede-smooth production from Clypto and Juelz White. As Tony Starks said himself on the Purple Tape, this how you freak ’em!

KingDem – “The KingDem EP” (Tru-Thoughts.BandCamp.Com) – Coming to the table with timeless skills, unmistakable character and a whole heap of personal Hip-Hop history under their respective belts, legends Ty, Rodney P and Blak Twang spoke with experience and authority on this four-track release, offering some tough love to the UK scene they helped shape whilst looking forever forward. Vibes, substance and longevity in abundance.

Jay NiCE & Farma Beats – “POMPEii” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – Delaware’s Jay NiCE spat hot lava over an impeccable production selection from the UK’s Farma Beats throughout his fourth release of 2019, a project which succeeded in elevating itself above most of the competition thanks to a satisfying combination of lyrical urgency and genuine creative chemistry.

Apollo Brown – “Sincerely, Detroit” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp,Com) – Motor City producer Apollo Brown celebrated the Hip-Hop legacy of the city that shaped his sound on this ambitious project, featuring a huge list of over fifty Detroit artists (including Black Milk, Slum Village and Phat Kat) all rising to the challenge of justifying their inclusion on this epic release, blessing a satisfying batch of stripped-down-but-soulful beats with accomplished lyricism.

Ray Vendetta – “The Billion Bar Mind EP” (PrestigiousRecordings1.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Buffalo, NY’s TheRealSkitso, London lyricist Ray Vendetta let his mind spray in all directions on the third instalment of his 5 Star Saga series, showcasing the formidable street-savvy verbal science that’s kept the Triple Darkness / New Guardz member on the radar of underground heads both in the UK and overseas.

Clever 1 & Giallo Point – “Kiss Da Converse” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – The second 2019 release to drop from the Buze Bruvaz camp, Philly emcee Clever 1 followed the example set by this rhyming partner Him Lo by also calling on the production talent of the UK’s Giallo Point for this solo release, pounding the understated loops and samples heard here with his always entertaining brand of brass-knuckle rap.

1520 – “Mosquito Fly & Starships” (1520.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran London emcee Nomadic Poet (of The Planets fame) teamed-up with gifted producer Drematic XL to celebrate the pair’s shared passion for the culture of Hip-Hop on this well-executed collection of true-school anthems, packed with lively rhymes and blistering beats.

Oxygen – “Age Appropriate” (Ox-The-Architect.BandCamp.Com) – Strong Island legend and Soundsci member Oxygen celebrated his 50th birthday with the release of this heavily-anticipated album, a project pairing the NY emcee’s unquestionable skills with top-shelf production from the UK’s Tom Caruana.

Supastition – “Sacrifice EP” (Supastition.BandCamp.Com) – Since his debut album dropped in 2002, North Carolina’s Supastition has deservedly earned himself a reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees. This release signalled the return of the always impressive lyricist, with four years having passed since his last project. A self-produced effort, this EP offered further proof as to why Supastition is held in such high regard by fans, with the rapper offering listeners a strong combination of personal opinions, life experiences and microphone techniques.

Part Four coming soon.

Sincerely, The P Album Stream – People Under The Stairs

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Bringing their twenty year musical journey to a suitably impressive end, Thes One and Double K’s final album is another finely-tuned selection of funky beats, spontaneous energy and proud West Coast attitude.

The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 2 EP Stream – People Under The Stairs

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West Coast vets Thes One and Double K deliver more of their trademark feel-good b-boy flavour on the second part of their “Gettin’ Off Stage” EP series.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part Five) – Life MC / Ghostface Killah / People Under The Stairs etc.

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

LEX – “Break The Pattern” (LEXOfSinistahCircle.BandCamp.Com) – Frantic and fast-paced, this fourteen-track EP (yes, fourteen tracks!) found the Queens, NY emcee delivering short, sharp displays of lyrical dexterity over bursts of dusty breakbeats. Raw, rugged and fuelled by the essence of old-school Rotten Apple park jams, “Break The Pattern” showcased LEX as an artist who is as passionate about respecting the culture of Hip-Hop as he is about  knocking out his competition.

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Equipto & Otayo Dubb – “Baby Steps” (Solidarity Records) – The West Coast has always had a rich, creative underground scene and this collaborative effort from Bored Stiff’s Equipto and fellow Cali representative Otayo Dubb is a worthy addition to a musical timeline that includes the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Likwit Crew and Hieroglyphics. Poignant life observations and verbal showmanship were combined here with expert precision, resulting in an album that was as sincere and earnest as it was entertaining.

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Thaione Davis – “Donald Mayhem – Skywritters” (ThaioneDavis.Com) – Taking on the character of Donald Mayhem for this captivating self-produced concept album, veteran Chicago lyricist Thaione Davis blended street-savvy bravado with an insightful social conscience as he took listeners on a guided tour through the Windy City.

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Life MC & Badhabitz – “Deep In The Trenches” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding UK lyricist Life proved once again why he’s considered one of the most consistent emcees to have emerged from British shores with this uncompromising release produced by Split Prophets’ Badhabitz. Accompanied by a sample-driven selection of radio-unfriendly beats, Life flexed his trademark punchline-heavy flow with the type of confidence that only worldly experience can bring, covering topics such as Hip-Hop stereotypes, misguided celebrity worship and institutional racism.

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Daniel Son – “Moonshine Chemist” (CrateDivizion.BandCamp) – Toronto’s Daniel Son teamed-up with the Crate Divizion production squad to spit vivid, action-packed rhymes over quality, sample-laced beats from Giallo Point, Vic Grimes and Kurse.

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Figub Brazlevic & Teknical Development – “The Everyday Headnod” (Vinyl Digital) – This joint effort from Berlin producer Figub and London lyricist Tek was easily one of the most well-crafted releases of 2015. Combining jazzy, full-bodied boom-bap with intricate, intelligent verses, the two Man Of Booom members delivered an album with real creative depth that was both life-affirming and speaker-rocking.

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DJ Pressure Presents The Old Boys Club – “Revival Of The Real” (DJPressure.BandCamp.Com) – Manchester, England’s DJ Pressure pulled together a huge global collective of true-school representatives for this epic compilation project. Featuring appearances from Chuck D, Ruste Juxx, Da Buze Bruvaz’ CleverOne and more, this project truly lived up to its title by delivering a hard-hitting collection of beats and rhymes from individuals totally disinterested in pandering to mainstream trends.

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R.A.W. (Problemz & DJ Skizz) – “Right Amount Of Wrong” (Soulspazm) – Having been a fan of Brooklyn’s Problemz since his 90s work with the likes of DJ Honda, Al’ Tariq and Black Attack, it was a real pleasure to hear the NY emcee sounding like he hadn’t missed a beat on this dope EP, lacing the moody production of DJ Skizz with a barrage of gritty BK wordplay that was both hardcore and refined.

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Adrian Younge & Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons To Die II” (Linear Labs) – Although sequels are often known for not living up to the impact of their predecessors, this follow-up to West Coast music man Younge’s 2014 collaboration with the mighty Toney Starks actually improved on the formula of the original “12 Reasons…”. Set in 1970s New York and based around a crime-riddled cinematic plot, “…To Die II” found the Wu warrior once again attacking an impeccable selection of live, analog soundscapes with his detailed story-telling skills.

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Denmark Vessey – “Martin Lucid Dream” (Rappers I Know) – Displaying a brilliant artistic mind, Detroit-raised Vessey mixed a gritty, realistic worldview with an eloquent delivery and the thump of soulfully distorted production on this eight-track masterpiece. Featuring appearances from Guilty Simpson, Tanya Morgan and Black Milk, there was a genuinely timeless appeal to this EP which was both inspiring and thought-provoking.

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Aim & QNC – “The Habit Of A Lifetime (And How To Kick It)” (Atic Records) – Veteran UK producer Aim and NY duo Q-Ball & Curt Cazal built on a longstanding sonic chemistry that dates back to the 90s with this long-awaited project. With both Aim and JVC Force member Cazal sharing production duties, Q-Ball had plenty of sample-based flavour to take advantage of, with both a Grand Puba collaboration and a dope Guru tribute ensuring this album’s true-school value was through the roof.

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People Under The Stairs – “The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 1” (Piecelock70) – At this stage in their career, West Coast natives People Under The Stairs surely deserve to be classed as one of Hip-Hop’s greatest ever duos. Having remained consistent in terms of both quality and quantity since their late-90s debut, Thes One and Double K’s already-extensive discography was further expanded with the release of this quality EP. Packed with more of the feel-good funk the pair have become known for, this project proved that, almost twenty years since they first dropped on wax, the pair still sound as fresh and enthusiastic as ever.

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Public Enemy – “Man Plans God Laughs” (SpitDigital) – After Melle Mel in his 1980s prime, Chuck D ranks as arguably the most authoritative voice in Hip-Hop of all-time. Showing no signs of letting-up their attack on the establishment almost thirty years after Public Enemy’s Def Jam debut, the legendary group returned in 2015 with yet another dose of potent edutainment, proving that Strong Island’s self-proclaimed rhyme animal still isn’t ready to be caged.

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Conway – “Reject 2…” (Griselda Records) – Hailing from the home of late, great funk-rock legend Rick James, Buffalo, NY’s Conway delivered his own collection of street songs on this captivating Daringer-produced project. Joined by WestsideGunn, Roc Marciano and Skyzoo, the East Coast wordsmith wove nimble-yet-grimy verses around moody, hypnotic soundscapes, resulting in a gripping listening experience.

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Illinformed – “The Mould Tape” (Real Life Drama Records) – Whilst this album contained a lengthy list of talented UK emcees, including Leaf Dog, Sonnyjim and Verb T, it was music man Illinformed’s impeccable work behind the boards that really elevated the project above being simply just another producer-based release. Heavy drums, obscure samples and dense b-lines were the order of the day here, ensuring that, regardless of its title, “The Mould Tape” was anything but past its sell by date.

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Hus Kingpin & SmooVth – “Splash Bros” (Splash Bros) – The Hempstead, NY homeboys showcased their undeniable rhyming chemistry on this effortlessly dope EP. Backed by a selection of mellow, melodic soundscapes from the likes of Audible Doctor, J57 and Twiz The Beat Pro, the duo shot straight three-pointers throughout this release, with SmooVth’s sharp barbs and Kingpin’s more ominous flow creating a captivating combination which demonstrated why they’re considered two of the best emcees to have emerged from the East Coast in recent years.

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Dell-P – “A New Beginning” (WhoMag Distribution) – Clearly an emcee with something of substance to say, Philly’s Dell-P packed this lengthy album with plenty of food for thought, touching on a variety of social issues with both maturity and insight. Yet to simply label this Illadelph lyricist as a ‘conscious’ artist would be too easy, with this project proving Peezie to be a truly well-rounded artist, grounded in the traditions of Hip-Hop culture and bringing something genuine to the game.

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OC From NC – “Higher Learning” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Bringing his own brand of street knowledge to the forefront on this soulful-yet-rugged album, North Carolina’s OC rhymed like a man with real purpose here, grabbing the listener’s attention with a mix of authority, intelligence and wit. Personal and passionate, “Higher Learning” was quality down-to-earth Hip-Hop that hit you in both the head and the heart.

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Severed Tongue – “Gentle Katharsis” (Inner Peace Records) – A collaborative effort from UK emcees Elliot Fresh and Tang The Pilgrim, “Gentle Katharsis” was a melancholy, meditative listening experience, with the two lyricists delivering poignant self-reflection and absorbing wordplay over solid, and at times moody production from the likes of EarthOne, Said Zu and King Boyden.

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Sean Price – “Songs In The Key Of Price” (Ruck Down Records) – Although this release was neither an official album or EP, as a nod of respect to the late, great Brooklyn emcee, it’s only right that the final mention in Old To The New’s best-of-2015 list goes to Sean P’s  “Songs In The Key Of Price”. Thirty-tracks deep and drenched in grimy New York attitude, this mixtape showcased everything that was brilliant about the Heltah Skeltah member’s unapologetically hardcore approach to his craft. RIP Sean Price!

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100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part Two) – Cormega / Habitat & DJ Severe / Diamond D etc.

Check Part One here.

Cormega – “Mega Philosophy” (The Slimstyle Recording Corporation) – A true veteran of the pitfalls of both the inner-city streets and the music industry, Queensbridge icon ‘Mega joined forces with the legendary Large Professor for this pure and honest dose of East Coast Hip-Hop. Backed by both Extra P’s impeccable beats and appearances from the likes of Raekwon, Nature and Black Rob, the NY lyricist ensured this album lived up to its title as he dropped jewels and life lessons throughout.

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Pawz One – “Face The Facts” (Below System Records) – Grounded in the streets of LA but looking much further than the end of his block for inspiration, West Coast emcee Pawz One packed his debut album with insightful, heartfelt commentary on everything from self-empowerment and police brutality to back-in-the day memories and his love for Hip-Hop. Standing out from the crowd with a strong sense of individuality and a good ear for quality production, the Cali microphone fiend ensured he separated the fact from the fiction on his first official full-length project.

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Supa Dave West – “Beat Boxing” (Redefinition Records) – Having supplied the likes of De La Soul, Common and Ghostface with some sonic flavour over the years, Queens, NY-raised Dave West demonstrated his versatility behind-the-boards with this speaker-busting instrumental effort, sculpting tracks that ranged in style from futuristic boom-bap and synth-heavy vibes to feel-good funk and old-school block-party beats.

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Jack Jetson – “Adventures Of Johnny Strange” (RLD Records) – Promising to “hijack your plane of existence”, UK emcee Jack Jetson dropped one of the most lyrically entertaining releases of the year with “Adventures Of…”, a non-stop barrage of verbal mischief and mayhem. Think Dennis The Menace meets Canibus and you’re halfway there. With colourful, psychedelic wordplay exploding over brilliant beats from the multi-talented Leaf Dog, Jetson proved himself to be a genuinely gifted emcee with a lively imagination.

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MindsOne & Kev Brown – “Pillars” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – This expertly-executed EP delivered the goods on each of its eight tracks, resulting in a relatively short but intense listening experience. Combining Maryland producer-on-the-mic Kev Brown’s trademark basslines, basement-style beats and direct lyricism with the sharp rhymes of MindsOne, the elegantly rugged “Pillars” quickly became yet another worthy addition to the steadily expanding Ill Adrenaline catalogue.

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Rocdwell – “Daily Chronicles” (Rocdwell.BandCamp.Com) – With a passionate, captivating rhyme style falling somewhere between Freeway and Sugar Ray of 90s favourites Double XX Posse, Detroit artist Rocdwell’s album of “adult contemporary Hip-Hop” found the lyricist dropping down-t0-earth rhymes over hard-hitting, soul-tinged production, with “Daily Chronicles” designed to act as a motivational soundtrack to assist us all as we battled with the trials, tribulations and everyday struggles of life.

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People Under The Stairs – “12 Step Program” (Piecelock 70 Records) – Combining their shared passion for fun-fuelled b-boy antics, funky breaks and beer, West Coast duo Thes One and Double K filled their eleventh (!!!) album with their usual upbeat, feel-good flavour, proving yet again why PUTS have remained one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent and reliable acts since debuting back in the late-90s.

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Edo.G – “After All These Years” (5th & Union) – Proving the old saying that there’s strength in numbers, Boston’s Edo.G successfully enlisted the help of fans in 2014 for this Kickstarter-funded album. Featuring production from Pete Rock and 9th Wonder, plus appearances by King Magnetic, Camp Lo and Chuck D, “After All These Years” achieved a healthy balance between golden-era throwback vibes and present-day relevance, with Edo embracing his elder statesman status as he attempted to school the masses.

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Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild – “Silk Pyramids” (Thrice Great Records) – Combining gritty Rotten Apple attitude, a passion for fly apparel, and an unwavering pride in his home borough of Queens, Outdoorsmen member Meyhem Lauren’s heavily-anticipated collaboration with D.I.T.C.’s Buckwild lived up to expecations, delivering a hefty, slang-laden slice of traditional New York straight talk.

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Habitat & DJ Severe – “Empire Building” (Boom Bap Professionals) – Having already left a dent on the UK Hip-Hop scene as part of Lincolnshire’s Heavy Links crew, emcee Habitat struck out on a solo mission to claim new musical territory, armed with sharp lyrical darts, the battle-hardened boom-bap of producer DJ Severe, and the support of lyrical allies such as Oliver Sudden, Chrome and Luca Brazi. No tricks in 2014, it was time to build.

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Army Of The Pharoahs – “Heavy Lies The Crown” (Enemy Soil Records) – The second of two albums released by the East Coast collective in 2014, “Heavy Lies The Crown” found the AOTP emcees at their creative best, with the likes of Vinnie Paz, Celph Titled and Esoteric dropping vivid, larger-than-life imagery and bone-crushing punchlines over dramatic production from C-Lance, Stu Bangas, DJ 7L and more. Rough, rugged and raw.

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Apollo Brown & Ras Kass – “Blasphemy” (Mello Music Group) – Taking on a variety of subjects, including religion, racism, financial recession and the rules of the rap game, West Coast verbal heavyweight Ras Kass and Detroit producer Apollo Brown crafted an album perfectly suited to today’s confusing times. Further proving the Cali lyricist’s well-deserved reputation as one of Hip-Hop’s most formidable wordsmiths, and adding yet another chamber to Brown’s already impressive discography, “Blasphemy” provided a robust mix of thought-provoking rhymes, microphone bravado and pounding, sample-heavy beats.

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Es-K – “Serenity” (Cold Busted) – A concept album dedicated to the memory of a close friend, the aptly-titled “Serenity” found Holland-born producer Es-K inviting the likes of D.I.T.C.’s Andre The Giant, C-Rayz Walz and Boston’s M-Dot to wax lyrical about the pain of loss, the beauty of cherished memories and the fragility of life, with poignant results. Providing a warm, hypnotic soundbed for the sincere and heartfelt verses of the album’s featured artists, Es-K excelled himself musically, delivering soulfully soothing beats which gave the project a moving, ethereal feel.

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Diamond D – “The Diam Piece” (Dymond Mine Records) – Succeeding in blending old-school production values with a contemporary feel, the Diggin In The Crates’ producer-on-the-mic pulled together a generation-spanning group of emcees to bless “The Diam Piece”. The likes of Skyzoo, Rapsody, Freddie Foxxx and Grand Daddy I.U. all stepped-up to the mic-stand with solid performances whilst Diamond worked his dusty-fingered magic on the beats.

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Shabaam Sahdeeq – “Keepers Of The Lost Art” (Below System Records) – Approaching his first proper album in almost ten years with both the wisdom of experience and an ever-youthful passion for his craft, NYC’s Sahdeeq sounded like he hadn’t missed a beat since his debut during the mid-90s independent boom, lacing quality production from the likes of the UK’s Lewis Parker, Harry Fraud and DJ Skizz with his thoughts on life and Hip-Hop.

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Pharoahe Monch – “PTSD” (W.A.R. Media) – In less-skilled hands, a part-autobiographical, part-conceptual album covering topics such as substance abuse, mental health and emotional stress could very easily have been a creative disaster. Yet, with “PTSD”, Organized Konfusion’s Monch succeeded in effectively dealing with such potentially sensitive subject matter whilst still taking the opportunity to indulge in some good ol’-fashioned verbal showmanship, recording an album which balanced soul-stirring moments with competition-crushing verses of sheer lyrical excellence.

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Tunnel Movement – “Overlooked” – Following in the musical footsteps of other Windy City talents such as All Natural and Common, Chicago duo KwoteOne and N.O.A.H. crafted an impressive sophomore album full of life-affirming rhymes and solid, soul-laced beats, which, in this instance, hopefully didn’t live up to its title.

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Raf Almighty – “G.T.F.O.M.Y.” (Effiscienz Records) – A product of his 90s-era Baltimore environment, Dirt Platoon member Raf Almighty brought a fiery combination of life experience and lyrical grit to the table on this uncompromising solo project, finding his ideal musical backdrop in the concrete-cracking production of France’s DJ Brans.

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Sunblaze – “Dirty Rican LP” (SunblazeHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – Representing BK to the fullest, Rotten Apple resident Sunblaze evoked images of shadowy project hallways, street corner ciphers and scuffed Timberland boots with this rugged project firmly rooted in the tradition of East Coast boom-bap. With Timbo King, Pumpkinhead and Tragedy Khadafi providing lyrical assistance, Sunblaze utilised his street-related, razor-sharp rhymes to add on to the legacy of the City Of Gods. Boriquas on da set!

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Apathy – “Connecticut Casual” (Dirty Version Records) – Drawing on his New England stomping grounds for inspiration, Demigodz member Apathy took listeners on a twisting journey through the underbelly of Connecticut for his fourth solo album, combining personal memories, local folklore and political intrigue with masterful penmanship on this largely self-produced and thoroughly captivating release.

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Part Three coming soon.

Where The Piecelock Ends Beat Tape Stream – Thes One

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The multi-talented Thes One of Los Angeles duo People Under The Stairs unloads a fresh batch of head-nodding instrumentals straight from his Akai for this free release.

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “12 Step Program Commercial” (@PUTS / 2014)

Most artists just throw-up a thirty-second trailer when they have a new album to promote, whereas West Coast duo Thes One and Double K  have recorded a new non-LP track to raise awareness of their forthcoming project “12 Step Program”.

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “1 Up Til Sun Up” (@Piecelock70 / 2014)

Lead single from West Coast duo Thes One and Double K’s forthcoming album “12 Step Program”.

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “Holiday Party” (PL70.Net / 2013)

Thes One and Double K take a break from recording their latest album “12 Step Program” to get in the seasonal mood and flip an unlikely Paul McCartney sample for our listening pleasure.

Live Review – People Under The Stairs

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.

Ryan Proctor

Straight West Coastin’ – Thes One

Thes One of LA’s People Under The Stairs speaks to 88TillInfinity.Com about the PUTS discography and the duo’s musical influences.

52 Best Albums & EPs Of 2011 (Part One) – The Doppelgangaz / Rashad & Confidence / Elzhi etc.

Another year has nearly passed by already, which, of course, means another twelve months worth of Hip-Hop releases have been unleashed on the rap world, whether on vinyl, CD or download format.

Whilst some heads will still say that Hip-Hop is in a state of demise, personally, I feel that 2011 has been a good year for the music and artform. Of course, the majority of music championed in the mainstream doesn’t represent the best that Hip-Hop has to offer in the present day, but, as always, if you dig deep enough you’ll find a wide array of beats and rhymes to satisfy your musical hunger.

For the record, the albums and EPs that I’ve included in my five-part “Best-Of…” obviously aren’t the only releases that deserved attention this year, but they are the ones that received the most rotation in my small part of the Hip-Hop universe.

So agree, disagree, or don’t care either way – as Black Sheep once said, the choice is yours.

The Doppelgangaz – “Lone Sharks” (Groggy Pack Entertainment) – Lurking in the shadows of New York state, grimy duo EP and Matter Ov Fact managed to turn leftfield observations of homelessness and alchohol-fuelled dark alley antics into moments of Hip-Hop brilliance on their latest release. The pair’s penchant for unpredictable subject matter and moody, boom-bap production ensured “Lone Sharks” stood-out as one of the most unique and imaginative albums of the last twelve months.

Heavy Metal Kings – “Heavy Metal Kings” (Enemy Soil) – Fresh from the success of his impressive 2010 solo album “Season Of The Assassin”, Jedi Mind Tricks frontman Vinnie Paz teamed-up with brother-from-another-mother Ill Bill for this violent, rowdy ride through a world of conspiracy theories, religious imagery, gleeful gunplay and hardcore Hip-Hop. Featuring pounding production from the likes of DJ Muggs and C-Lance, “Heavy Metal Kings” was music to riot to.

Rashad & Confidence – “The Element Of Surprise” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – The perfect example of being in the right place at the right time, NY emcee Rashad’s chance online encounter with Boston-based producer Confidence led to the recording of this fine slice of true-school Hip-Hop with a new-school twist. Drawing inspiration from the jazzy, dusty-fingered soundscapes of 90s greats such as Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Gang Starr, “The Element Of Surprise” avoided simply retreading old ground thanks to Confidence’s undeniable production prowess and Rashad’s heartfelt rhymes. Word to Lord Finesse!

People Under The Stairs – “Highlighter” (Piecelock 70) – Almost fifteen years after their debut release, West Coast duo Thes One and Double K dropped their eighth album on the rap world, this time around mixing live instrumentation with their lyrical b-boy antics. Proving that it is possible to mature gracefully as a Hip-Hop act, “Highlighter” found the Cali homies presenting listeners with a more sophisticated and refined sound without losing any of that fun-loving PUTS spirit in the process.

Pharoahe Monch – “W.A.R.” (Duck Down) – With only three solo album releases in the last twelve years, former Organized Konfusion member Pharoahe Monch is the epitome of quality over quantity. The latest effort from the Queens, NY native contained Monch’s usual high-standard of lyrical gymnastics that touched on socio-political themes as well as rap dominance, plus a handful of choice collaborations with the likes of Styles P, Jill Scott and Royce Da 5’9.

Apathy – “Honkey Kong” (Dirty Version) – Demigodz general Apathy’s career has been full of ups-and-downs over the years in terms of label dramas and underground politics. Yet thankfully, Ap has always been able to channel his frustrations with the rap game into potent doses of raw, intelligent Hip-Hop. “Honkey Kong” found the gifted Connecticut emcee dealing with the financial instability of subterranean rap life, commenting on the fragile relationship between fan and artist, and giving props to his hometown, all via verses full of wit, passion and a genuine respect for his craft.

Styly Cee & Cappo – “The Fallout” (Son Records) – The two Nottingham natives joined forces on this action-packed collection of high-octane tracks that effortlessly bridged the gap between old-school and now-school with Styly’s hardcore Zulu beats crashing beautifully into Cappo’s spectacular multi-layered wordplay. Notts rocks the house, once again.

Oddisee – “Rock Creek Park” (Mello Music Group) – Inspired by the same Washington park made famous in the 70s by The Blackbyrds, Oddisee’s epic instrumental project captured a variety of moods from the water-calm mellow to the sun-splashed funky. The D.C. resident has spent recent years solidifying his reputation as a talented Hip-Hop beatsmith, but with this project he proved himself not only as a great producer, but also as a gifted musician with universal appeal.

Celph-Titled & Buckwild – “Nineteen Ninety More” (No Sleep Recordings) – Obviously not content with verbally obliterating a quality selection of vintage Buckwild beats on last year’s “Nineteen Ninety Now” album, Demigodz punchline king Celph-Titled dug a little deeper in the D.I.T.C. producer’s basement crates for this further collection of back-to-the-future beats and rhymes.

Elzhi & Will Sessions – “ELmatic” (Jae. B Group) – A year ago, the idea of an artist remaking Nas’s rap milestone “Illmatic” would have been viewed by many as Hip-Hop blasphemy. Yet former Slum Village member Elzhi rose to the challenge and put a Detroit spin on classics usually associated with an NY state of mind. Credit for the success of this ambitious project also has to be given to the Will Sessions band, who perfectly captured the brilliance of tracks originally crafted by the likes of Pete Rock and DJ Premier. But it was Elzhi’s personal rhymes and clever wordplay that elevated “ELmatic” above being viewed simply a tribute project.

Ryan Proctor

Part Two coming soon.

Techno-Hop – Thes-One (People Under The Stairs)

PUTS member Thes-One explains the decision to release the group’s eighth project “Highlighter” as the first ever album to be made commercially available using the 24-bit HD-AAC format.

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “Talkin’ Back To The Streets” (PL70.Net / 2011)

Smooth-but-funky music to ride to from the West Coast duo’s new album “Highlighter”.

 

Cuttin’ Out The Middleman – Thes-One

Thes-One of People Under The Stairs talks about his new website PL70.Net which will allow fans to buy music direct from both PUTS and other like-minded artists – People Under The Stairs have been one of the most consistent crews of the last decade-plus and it’s inspiring to see artists out there like Thes-One still so passionate about their music.

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “Beer” (OM Records / 2010)

New video for a track from the Los Angeles-based duo’s 2009 album “Carried Away”.

Diggin’ In The Crates – People Under The Stairs

Thes-One and Double K talk about the influence of LA’s underground legends Freestyle Fellowship on their music.

Step Bacc – People Under The Stairs

PUTS performing “Step Bacc” from their new album “Fun DMC” for HipHopOfficial.

Just Havin’ Fun – People Under The Stairs

PUTS on HipHopOfficial’s Artist Of The Week segment promoting their new album “Fun DMC”.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

People Under The Stairs – “The Wiz” ( Gold Dust Media / 2008 )

Double K and Thes One give props to their Australian homies on this cool-out cut from the duo’s “Fun DMC” album.