31 May, 2006@12:00 am
If there is one word to describe the dynamic duo known as People Under the Stairs it’s longevity, through their deal with OM they reached a much larger fan base than the average hip-hop head. The appeal of this grassroots hip-hop group spans the world. After numerous worldwide tours and 4 albums it’s that time again. They have released their 5th album “Stepfather” on Tres/Basement Records. Before the fellas hit the road I got a chance to chat with them about life, hip-hop and of course the album. If you aren’t a fan of PUTS yet, you best wake up!
HHS: What’s good, how’s life?
Thes One: I can’t complain, I’m chilling. Everything is good. Basically getting older and getting wiser and just making music.
For those that don’t know, do a little introduction.
Thes One: My name is Thes One, half of the group People Under the Stairs. Double K is the other half. We both produce and rap, Double K does all the cuts and I do all the engineering and mixing. We both group up in LA, I grew up on the southside and he grew up on the west side of LA and we sort of in the middle. We have been making music since 1995 and we put our first album “The Next Step” in 1998. Then in 2000 we put out “Question in the Form of an Answer” and 2002 we dropped “O.S.T.”, then in 2004 we dropped the EP “Or Stay Tuned”. Now “Stepfather” on April 18th.
So the single is “Tuxedo Rap”?
Thes One: Yeah, the single is “Tuxedo Rap” and it’s just kind of floating around. The single ran late and didn’t have an official release date so when it finally came in we just wanted to get it out to cats. It ran late because we were trying to pull off this 6 Inch label.
I noticed that when I got the record, cracks me up and it looks like a big ass 45.
Thes One: It kind of slowed the production up a little bit and it makes it look crazy. We have always had a good time with this and we have never really taken the fact of how “hip-hop” we are real serious. So it helps DJs pay attention to the record and make you think “look at this fucked up 12, these dude’s put out”. From the cover art to the “Extended Disco Mix” we just wanted to do something different.
So what type of equipment you rock?
Thes One: I use an MPC3000 and Double K uses a MPC2000 and an SP1200.
The album is coming out as a joint venture between Basement Records and Tres?
Thes One: Tres is doing the vinyl and Basement is doing the cds.
So what is the situation with OM?
Thes One: It’s over, basically we did out time with them and when we signed with them it was 1999 and we were very young. Not to say we got jerked, but we didn’t cover a lot of ground in the record deal. We were really just amped to have someone believe in us and I will always give them props for being the first of anyone to believe in us and to square with us. As we grew and as they grew we just went differently and we fulfilled out obligation to them, which was 3 albums and that was that.
Yeah, it was wild because you were really one of the few hip-hop acts on the label
Thes One: Exactly, we definitely didn’t fit in and their core audience wasn’t our core audience. At that time it saved us, we couldn’t have foreseen how that would have saved our ass. As soon as we got on OM we were approaching everything differently than everybody else. It was good not to have a traditional hip-hop label telling us to make “hip-hop”. They just told us to do whatever we want and put it out and we will find a way to release it. We needed that and demanded it be that way because we didn’t want to mess with other labels. We had deals with other hip-hop labels and if we had gone with them we wouldn’t be around right now. The biggest change with signing with OM is that we started to look at the world instead of just the US. Pretty soon we were doing world tours back to back to back while everyone was trying to scrambling here in the states. So we decided to let it marinate and see if people liked it and here we are.
It’s crazy how appreciated hip-hop is in other countries other than here in the US, we really take it for granted.
Thes One: Exactly, you can’t ship a bunch of garbage overseas. Usually when you go to the record store the records that you see up on the wall are the records that are good enough to get there. They aren’t beat over the head with all the dumb shit that we are over here and you can be excited when you walk in a store. Most records stores are at the point where they can’t even carry everything that is out, so the smart buyers will weed out the bullshit.
Thes, it seems like you are very involved with Tres, explain that relationship.
Thes One: My homeboy’s homeboy was starting a record label and they didn’t know anything about anything
Thes One: Plus they were in Japan and they were asking me to help them get it off the ground. At the time I was down, I’m down to help anybody who is trying to put out good music. So the prospect of them having a label and helping put out music that I think is worthy of coming out. So honestly I got sucked into it and got in deeper and deeper until me, my homeboy and Alex were pretty much running it, but we don’t own it. So, that’s were it is right now. I’m down with Tres but I don’t own it or run it.
A lot of people think that the label is yours, Tres and Thes…k’mon.
Thes One: I’ve told them that and they act like its all accidental, but I’m not going to make a big deal about it. I’m an employee of Tres, let’s put it that way.
(Double K joins the call)
I have listened to you guys for years now and being a DJ a pay attention to cuts on the tracks, Double K you have really come up with the scratching. How many hours you practice a week? (Laughs)
Double K: I don’t, I practice when we get ready to do a show for real. I really don’t practice as much as I should.
Double K, who were your influences as far as djs are concerned?
Double K: Terminator and Jazzy Jeff, Jazzy Jeff number 1. That guy did some things to me when I was young I didn’t know what was happening.
Thes One: Wait a minute…that sound a little weird (Laughs)
Thes One: He said that guy did something when I was young…. (Laughs)
Double K: (Laughs) You know what I mean, please man (Laughs). Jazzy Jeff really the transformer thing is what really got me. Cash Money of course, DJ Aladdin, DJ Pooh, Dr Dre all the top DJs.
So did you set out to be a DJ or an emcee initially?
Double K: DJ, still am a DJ man…I just got with Thes and got inspired…
Thes One: (Laughs) Shut up man…
Double K: For real around high school I started freestyling and testing out, but before that it was just records and turntables.
The single is “Tuxedo Rap” and has just landed, explain to us what that title means.
Double K: It was really just something that Thes said at the end of the song and we going to do another take and I said “Tuxedo Rap” so we left it.
So there is no underlying meaning to the record?
Double K: If you listen to the rap, it’s actually a Tuxedo Rap.
Thes One: It would best be said with a Tuxedo on (Laughs)
Double K: Plaid ones
Thes One: It’s high powered…you know
On “The Doctor and The Kid” you enlist the legendary George Clinton, how did that collaboration come about?
Double K: One of my partners who knew George and the whole Funk Mob members and me listening to George everyday and night I was like try to make it happen. He came through and made it happen and it ended up on the People Under the Stairs album because I didn’t want to have it just lying around.
Thes One: To tell you the truth I didn’t have anything to with that one. Double K is being real modest right now, he and George were chilling and he has the presence of mind to turn on the microphone.
Double K: Basically George came through and kicked it all night and we were just doing a whole bunch of talking and hanging out. He was down to lay something for me and he didn’t have a problem me doing anything with it he just wanted to hear it. We definitely have to get him a copy of the album
Thes One: Plus that’s Double K on the bass guitar, so imagine Double K on the bass and George Clinton freestyling.
Double K: It was crazy and honestly I still can’t believe it went down.
Somehow PUTS has reached a much wider audience than just hip-hoppers, why do you guys think that PUTS is so universally liked?
Thes One: Thank God
Double K: If we were depending on just hip-hop we wouldn’t have any fans…naw, I don’t want to say that. We aren’t putting on this whole hip-hop thing where we have 5 things on our head and we are going to break-dance, not everybody wants that. Some people just want to come home and check out some music. We reach the people that don’t carry a gun everyday and aren’t pumping on the block. We are just normal people and we just reach a way wider audience just being ourselves and making universal music. Hip-hop is supposed to be universal.
Thes One: I couldn’t have said it myself. If you look at the dude’s the really meant something if they were only rapping about real life I may never have heard a Slick Rick or Run DMC as a young sprout. The fact that they could come with all types of songs about shoes, Fat Boys had songs about eating and Slick Rick was buying slices of pizza, that’s real to me.
Double K: Like DMC says on Raising Hell he has prescription glasses and his eyes are correct, two times every year he goes and gets them checked. That’s normal shit, the dude has to see.
Thes One: I’m sure somewhere there was a kid with glasses who was proud after that. That’s more real than some dude talking about slanging on the block.
What advice would you have to an upstart hip-hop label in 2006?
Double K: Be true to yourself and don’t be a follower. Be a leader.
Thes One: Study the dudes that paved the way, the Melle Mel’s and everyone. Study but don’t imitate. Study and understand why they did what they did and take that knowledge and make something fresh for all of us.
Double K: and listen to People Under the Stairs forever.
So what’s the Next Step for People Under the Stairs?
Double K: The road man, we are about to hit the road for a while and let the world know that “Stepfather” is here.
Thes One: We are going to be on the road and we are actually going to be in Atlanta for the first time
Should be interesting
Double K: We are going to have a ball out there….Get Krunk!
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