Tag Archives: People Under The Stairs

New Joint – People Under The Stairs

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

Taken from the new PUTS album “Fun DMC”.

Gio Interview (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Aug 29th 2008)

Being an underground artist is never easy, especially when your music is at odds with what is considered to be the popular sound of the mainstream. But California’s Gio knows all about going against the grain. Turning his back on the thug life offered to him on the potentially deadly gang-related streets of Los Angeles, this down-to-earth individual gravitated towards Hip-Hop when looking for a creative outlet to help keep him focused and away from drama. Having also spent time as an aspiring basketball player and a pastor, Gio’s story is definitely not your typical straight-off-the-block rap tale.

With his recently released debut album “Basicali” boasting a tight combination of melodic, boom-bap-infused production and nimble, thought-provoking lyricism, Gio has some healthy Hip-Hop soul food to offer malnourished rap fanatics. From the warm summer party vibes of “Sun Shine On Me” to the social commentary heard on “American Pie”, this LA resident is hoping to show the world another side of West Coast life that doesn’t revolve around claiming colors and throwing up sets. California love, indeed.

Ryan Proctor: How did you first get involved in music?

Gio: Well, I’m from inner-city Los Angeles and when I was young I started to get into thugging and totally being a gangsta. Members of my family were into that and I just started getting into a lot of trouble as a youth. I got kicked out of school, I was getting into fights, I kept getting arrested, and I really couldn’t put things together. It really pissed my mom off to the point where she kinda just gave up on me, so I was really looking to try and get involved in something positive to help put me back on the right track. I was transferred over to Hamilton High School and I met Scarub, Murs and Double K from People Under The Stairs. I found myself just trying to get into a different crowd and that was the group that was the total opposite of thugging; everybody was about studying, being peaceful with each other, and everybody rapped. I kinda sat on the sidelines as far as the music was concerned. Initially I just hung out with them and I would try to rap but I was just so wack. I remember I wrote some rhymes down, went into the cipher with my piece of paper and totally forgot what I’d written. It was really wack (laughs). But then I remember when I did my first proper freestyle and was able to get through it and actually ride the beat. It was like the best feeling in the world, and that was really the start of my journey as an MC. I actually started playing ball and I left the music alone for awhile, but then when I was in college I was injured so I really started getting back into rapping again as a hobby. I hooked-up with this band and things really took off and it went from me just rapping for fun to actually being serious about becoming a Hip-Hop artist. So from there, for about the past seven years, it’s been about me trying to find the right vehicle to actually take me to my goals.

RP: In the 90s Los Angeles developed a strong underground scene which included groups such as Freestyle Fellowship and The Pharcyde. Is that scene still as healthy today?

G: It’s actually kinda weak right now. There’s a lot of talented individuals out here in LA, but everyone’s just kinda running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I mean, you have West Coast-based labels like Stones Throw who still put out good product, but I wouldn’t really consider them underground. The problem is that, if you’re a dude who’s trying to hustle his CD, you’re almost looked down on by people now. The hipster crowd is quite big out here now, so everyone’s looking for the hype and artists like the Cool Kids and MIA. So to some extent the hipster scene has kinda replaced the traditional underground Hip-Hop scene out here. Which is why, for artists like me, it’s really difficult to get anywhere. Once people get the music in there hands and sit down to listen to it, most of the time they love it. But usually it’s really difficult to get people to take any notice of what I’m actually doing because as soon as you say you do Hip-Hop, if people haven’t already heard of you or you don’t already have some sort of buzz, they don’t want to take the time to listen.

RP: Do you feel that West Coast artists who’re trying to do something different are overshadowed by Cali’s traditional gangsta-rap sound and the perceptions people might have of artists from that area?

G: Welcome to my dilemma (laughs). That’s basically where myself and other artists are stuck at – how do we navigate our way through that? There’s really no home right now for the type of music that I make. I mean, you have artists out here like Blu who’s big out here in as much as people will actually go to his shows. He’s one of the few underground artists out here who has a buzz and is on a steady rise. But the real MCs out here in Cali are roaming and they’re frustrated.

RP: After listening to your album “Basicali” it seems like you’re a very spiritual person. Would you say that’s an accurate description of who you are?

G: I was actually a pastor for eight years so that’s definitely a part of who I am. I’m from the street but I’m not trying to be street. I’m not into things that are plastic. I like things that are real and coming from a genuine place because then I’m able to interact with that. I want to explore this life and be able to learn something from every situation I find myself in, even if it’s a bad one. Through my music I want to let those people who’re selling drugs or into gang-banging know that I understand the place they’re coming from, but to also show them that there is hope on the other side.

RP: Is there anything you experienced during your time as a pastor which has had a direct influence on your music?

G: I never want to take my message and my music and put it in the hands of the public in terms of people’s opinions swaying my creative direction. I definitely learnt that from my time as a pastor. As a figure of the church you live in the eyes of everybody else where your lifestyle and what you do is constantly under the microscope, to the point where other people’s thoughts and ideas control your daily life. So in my music I never want other people’s opinions of what I should be doing stop me from just being me. Whether my decisions to express certain things are right or wrong, I still want to allow myself the opportunity to do that. My favorite MC is Mos Def and I really look at him as being a total artist. Some people might say they didn’t like his more recent albums, but when I listen to them they feel real to me because he’s truly expressing himself the way he wants to as an artist. It’s definitely a challenge to try and live off of your art because often there’s a sacrifice that has to be made. For me, I’m going to continue to create music that I genuinely love and let go of trying to reach the glitz and glamour. It’s the love of the music that keeps me going and the idea of being able to create something that I can say is an honest representation of who I am. I put 100% into the music I make, I put 100% into the rhymes, I put 100% into making sure the mood of the song is right, and I put 100% into making sure I tell the truth.

RP: You have a track entitled “Clap Ya Handz” which has some interesting lyrics. You talk about an artist who wrongfully claims they’re “the best the West has to offer” and another artist who flips out at award shows and is always “talking about what (they) deserve”. I took those comments to be aimed at Snoop and Kanye West. Is that correct?

G: That song was aimed at The Game and Kanye West. Firstly, I have a love-hate relationship with Kanye. I think he’s extremely talented and a phenomenal producer but sometimes his arrogance overshadows the quality of his music. Similarly with The Game, don’t get it twisted, I think he’s very talented. But when he came out saying he was the best from the West and that he was bringing the West Coast back, sometimes his stuff can seem real plastic to me. He’s someone I do respect, but on that particular song I was trying to show people the other side of the coin. Everyone’s always hearing about how great artists like The Game and Kanye are, but no-one ever hears people talking about how Game isn’t necessarily the best from the West and that Kanye really needs to get over himself. I’m not saying that either of those artists are wack, I’m just saying that people who get caught up in the hype of thinking they’re the greatest artists in Hip-Hop right now perhaps should also spend some time listening to less-celebrated dudes like a Black Thought or a Mos Def.

RP: Ultimately, what do you want listeners to take away from your music?

G: I want my music to be part of the healing of Hip-Hop and I think as long as people are striving for something better in their lives then there’ll always be an audience for my music. The challenge is in trying to let people know that music like mine exists. My next project isn’t likely to sound the same as “Basicali” as I’m currently experimenting with some new sounds, but the message in the music will always be the same. There’s so much shit out there in the world to make you feel terrible, so I want people to enjoy listening to my music and really take something positive from it.

Ryan Proctor

Gio performing “Just Stuntin” from his album “Basicali”.

Putting The Fun Back Into The Funk – People Under The Stairs

Gold Dust Media EPK for the forthcoming “Fun DMC” album from West Coast underground vets People Under The Stairs.

Underground OGs – People Under The Stairs

Los Angeles-based duo People Under The Stairs talk to WhatIsFree.TV during a visit to Australia earlier this year.