People Under the Stairs
ll Double K and Thes One talk about is smoking blunts, hanging out at barbeques, watching the sunset, loving L.A., getting with girls, and, probably more than anyone else, making beats and spitting rhymes. And yet, somehow, they remain irresistibly affectionate, eliciting the reflective, genial atmosphere that nearly every other backpacker group strive for but consistently fumble. Say thanks to Thes One, who is one of the best producers in hip-hop, period. His beats and the group’s see-saw flows made their debut, The Next Step, and last album, O.S.T., indisputable underground West Coast hip-hop classics.
PUTS put out three albums and a solid EP in a fertile three-year period, but it’s been four years since O.S.T.. One reason for the wait might simply be the painstaking process that goes into making each track. There's a scene on the DVD accompanying Stepfather in which Thes travels to Mexico City and buys a stack of records from a makeshift street stand under a bridge. Weeks later, he listens to one of the records and uses it to construct a beat, which ends up being "You," one of the better songs on this collection. PUTS are steadfast in their adhesion to the old school style of the MPC and the SP1200, and as a result of their vinyl cravings, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to craft dope, original beats.
Perhaps that's also why Stepfather could be viewed as a disappointment. Save for the seemingly RJD2-inspired "More Than You Know," there isn't a standout production or chorus on this record like The Next Step’s "San Francisco Knights" and the timeless "Time to Rock Our Shit" or O.S.T.'s "Acid Raindrops" and "Montego Slay." Those songs crush anything on here, and they were rounded out by diverse tracks with often interesting productions. Stepfather doesn't possess the same production wizardry that those other records did—or so it would seem on first impression.
In time, however, Stepfather worms its way into your noodle, flowing steadily into a hypnotic, unified batch of heavily sedated, organ filled, lazy afternoon nodders. More than anything else, Stepfather is a transition album, hearkening back to the group’s first two albums, rather than coming to terms with the progressions on O.S.T..
Stepfather’s hardly a classic on the level of its predecessors, but it suffers from comparisons. Though perhaps not as successful or as conceptually progressive as Oxnard resident Madlib, Thes delivers another consistent portfolio of liquid beats that both reach back for inspiration but undoubtedly bear the stamp of their creator, while the duo unleash a torrent of rhymes that pretty much cover all their lyrical bases. In other words, business as usual. And business is fine.