1 November, 2011@8:06 pm
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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