People Under The Stairs – …Or Stay Tuned (CD) (2003) (FLAC + 320 kbps)
Double K and Thes One put it nicely when they say that they are “not MCs, producers or DJs,” adding, “We are B-boys, and we do all of that naturally.” That D.I.Y. attitude has a number of beneficial effects, among them an unusually intimate connection between the rhymes and the beats, and also a less quantifiable sense of down-to-earthiness that comes naturally to artists who do all their own crate-digging, mixing, scratching, engineering, and production. Throughout this album there’s a pervasive sense of a group that is focusing on the verities rather than wasting time with tired chest-pounding or empty celebrations of the bling. People Under the Stairs have a penchant for funky jazz loops and first-generation hip-hop constructs; check, for example, the easy-rolling electric piano groove of “Roadbeaters” or the complex but relaxed jitter-beat of “Outrun.” Even better is the unabashedly old-school celebration of “Drumbox,” which is delivered in a blunt rapping style that harks back directly to the Last Poets and Grandmaster Flash. And then there’s “SF Knights Remix,” a distressingly brief beatbox interlude. If life remains in hip-hop’s stiffening corpse, it’s because of groups like this. Highly recommended.