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As the years go on, the generation of heads that came up before the 2Pac/Biggie era of hip-hop seems to dwindle. The 80′s and 90′s produced some of the most pure hip-hop imaginable, in a time where record sales came second to the art, and the music was presented with a sense of honesty and integrity. The indie hip-hop movement produced a lot of “internet emcees” – kids that were raised in that era, but lacked the authenticity or “street cred” to really reproduce the coveted classic sound. L.A.’s People Under The Stairs emerged during that time period, and with their 8th album, Highlighter, they prove they weren’t just another fly-by-night group with a couple of 12″ singles.

Prideful crate diggers, Thes-One and Double K have always built their music around samples, but Highlighter takes it to the next level, with a true mastery of the craft. It sound as if they’ve moved beyond just sample collages, implementing some original production behind the dusty grooves. There’s hints of Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb here; another LP built around samples and original production alike.

Not to sound cliche, but PUTS have crafted another LP of “feel good music” that’s easy on the ears, even when their venting about industry evils on tracks like “Selfish Destruction”. Other times, they just have fun with it – such as on “Uprock Boogie”, built around an Eric B. chain and Das Efx quotes, or “Electric Tookie”, an ode to 80′s sitcoms. They take things a step further on “Cookie’s Theme”, where Double K dreams about being a doo-wop singer with a pension for big girls, or “WRLA”, a lighthearted look at lost “art of radio”.

“Ambien Hallway Music” finds the duo contemplating retirement, ending the record off. While a familiar break in it’s own right, the only real questionable sample here is on “Can’t Hold It Back”, using a terribly obvious jacking of Art Of Noise’s “Moments In Love”. For two gentlemen that built their sound on impossible to find gems, this one seems a bit out of place in their catalog. Maybe it was a guilty pleasure.

Amazingly, at 20 tracks deep, the duo keep their consistency throughout the length of the LP with a rich, musical groove that never seems to let up. What’s even more stunning is how consistent this LP is at this stage in their career. Many artists can’t even get to eight albums, and if they can, but that time the “dope juice” runs out. Here’s to People Under The Stairs for delivering quality hip-hop music all these years.

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6 Responses to "People Under The Stairs – "Highlighter" – @@@@ (Review)"
  • i'm at work and bored says:

    I know times are tough but seriously. This is the best album cover they can afford? Wowzers

  • Dayz says:

    The review is spot on, an incredible album! PUTS keeps getting better with every LP! One of the most consistent Hip Hop acts ever and one of the most enjoyable to listen to as well! I suggest everyone buy this album, it is the essence of what Hip Hop and all music should be about, it sounds pleasing to the ear and is fun! Enjoy it y’all!

  • cmatter says:

    Carried Away was my favorite since their debut, can’t wait to cop this one, they rock an ill live show too, love these dudes.

  • jmarc says:

    This album is just awesome in every sense of the word from the production & rhymes to the general DIY ethos that PUTS have. Easily as good as O.S.T or Carried Away. To be honest I dont think they have ever let the quality slip.

  • Nice review. To the commenter who asked about the sparse-ness of their album cover, PUTS has always been like that. In interviews, they’ve mentioned that the label that released “Stepfather” couldn’t believe that all they wanted on the album cover was just two little-*ss fireworks and some LP wear-stains… Don’t judge a book by its cover, homie. Also, the yellow “highlighter” color is a specially made ink for the release, and the limited edition vinyl was made with more care than pretty much any other release this year. Look it up.

    To the FaceBook poster who thinks the album’s “sh*t thrown together by their label to make revenue”, I call major bullsh*t. For this release, they don’t HAVE a label. Thes One IS Piecelock 70, and he built the studio they recorded in with his bare hands (look it up), he threw out a mastering of the album when it didn’t sound right (and paid thousands to get it fixed), he threw out his initial vinyl distributor after they screwed up the plating, and they went through the extra time and struggle to help people download 24-bit AAC from their site (>1 Gb) when the servers crashed.

    This is a labor of love, and I dare you to name another hip hop act that’s sounded this good after eight releases.

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