Since its inception in the late 1970’s, Hip-Hop has been fundamentally grounded in the central partnership between the DJ and the emcee. As time went on and both production technology and the genre’s popularity grew, DJs for groups and duos eventually began taking on even greater roles, often times serving as in-studio producers for the groups that they DJ’d for. In fact, some of the genre’s most iconic groups and duos from Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and even the legendary Wu-Tang Clan; are just a few of many acts that owe their signature sounds to their own respective DJs/producers. Needless to say, DJs and in-house producers have long served as the creative anchors in groups and duos for much of the genres existence; and are an invaluable component ingrained in the culture’s DNA. However, with ever evolving advancements in technology; and the rise of do-it-yourself bedroom rappers and producers; the quintessential rap duo/crew has increasingly become an endangered species. With more and more artists opting for solo careers, and superfluous album features becoming ubiquitous; it appears that along with Hip-Hop groups in-house producers and DJs have become collateral damage in the ever on-going commercialization of Rap music and Hip-Hop culture. However, despite this rather recent trend; there are still some traditional Hip-Hop groups and crews that have remained dedicated to preserving and carrying on these traditions laid down long ago. One of the groups still championing these tenants are world renowned L.A. rap duo Thes One and Double K; better known collectively as People Under The Stairs.
For more than two decades the L.A. based emcees/producers duo have been crafting their own unique brand of authentic, no-nonsense, Hip-Hop and have been fixtures of the L.A. underground Hip-Hop since the release of their debut in album The Next Step in 1998. Known for their playful, laid back, summertime, backyard BBQ quality in their music and uniquely L.A. attitude; People Under The Stairs has filled a distinct facet, not only within the L.A. music scene but the greater Hip-Hop genre. Applying a do-it-yourself work ethic, the duo has served as a rare anomaly in Hip-Hop, with Thes One and Double K both sampling, emceeing, DJing, and producing all of their projects in-house; solely between the two of themselves with virtually zero input or outside influence in their work. Over the course of their nearly twenty year long careers the duo have released nine albums, several compilation projects and toured extensively worldwide; earning themselves a loyal and devoted following not only in the underground Hip-Hop scene but with a wide array of music listeners across the globe as well. Sadly, in October 2018 Thes One announced that he was officially retiring from professionally making music and that after nearly twenty years in the industry, the duo finally declared that it was wrap. However, as one last final farewell to fans the group announced that the two would finish off their amazing run with one last final LP, entitled Sincerely, The P.
As the duo’s first official release in nearly three years (their last being 2016’s The Gettin’ Off Stage: Step 2 EP) and their first full-length LP since 2014’s 12 Step Program, Sincerely, The P is a fittingly entry to conclude the group’s musical legacy. Accompanied by the groups signature golden age Hip-Hop sound, People Under The Stairs make ample use of vintage samples and record scratches expertly cut by Double K which have become hallmark attributes of the group’s music. The album’s intro track, appropriately entitled ‘Encore’, is a rousing track laced with regal strings and blaring electric guitars signaling that the group plans to go out on their final release with a bang. The album, surprisingly manages to effortlessly shift gears leading into ‘Reach Out’; a sentimental track where Thes One and Double K reflect back on their twenty plus year careers in the rap game. Through the track’s progression both Thes and Double reflect not only on the couples stories they’ve accumulated over the years in the music business, but likewise reflect back on the initial difficulties of finding their place in the Hip-Hop scene and above the fact that in spite of it all they’d do it no other way. While it’s easy to think that an album such as Sincerely, The P would fall victim to the tropes of self-reflection and melancholy. However, People Under The Stairs show they are more willing to show off last few new tricks on their final album by stepping into new territory, social commentary. Case in point being the not subtlety titled track ‘The Effects of Climate Change on Densely Populated Areas’; a seemingly lighthearted take on a not so funny subject matter; climate change and greater implications of global warming. Here, Thes One and Double K give their take on the effects of climate change in their home town of Los Angeles, California. From sweltering heat, rising temperatures, power outages, wildfires, short tempers and the subsequent disproportional police use of force documented to accompany high temperatures in densely populated, majority Black and Brown cities and communities; the two discuss the miserable conditions that have not only affected Los Angeles and the rest of the golden state as a result of global warming. While the track is by no means the biting social satire and commentary fans would expect to accompany such subject matter from of other underground contemporaries such as Immortal Technique or Brother Ali; the song is done in a lighthearted and perhaps even silly manner that has come to characterize the group’s style. Nonetheless, even while done in the casual, perspective of two dudes just living life in L.A.; the track nonetheless is a very real response to the wonky weather patterns of a clearly sick planet which worldwide is increasingly becoming more and more self-evident and disproportionately affecting communities of color. The album quickly returns to more reflective territory, perhaps best showcased on the track ‘We Get Around’. A mesmerizing, funky, laid back track has the duo reminiscing on past tours, past shows and past cities the two performed world wide since their debut. Making clever use of a Beach Boys, the track is a testament to the pair’s acute ear for uncommon and left field samples which have become a signature aspect of the group’s music.
This being said, Sincerely, The P is not just purely a reflective victory lap for the veteran group to simply retread old ground. Tracks such as ‘Stars In House’’, find the duo trying out new, more up-temp cadences, with distinctly spacey and more modern production. While never straying too far from their foundations and remaining deeply rooted in their Hip-Hop origins, tracks like such are a testament that twenty years in Thes One and Double K are more than comfortable taking risk and attempting new things in their music. Other album highlights include ‘Here For a Good Time’, a somber track which have two emcees detailing their lives outside of rap; with the duo lamenting about everyday things such as family, pets, bills and other everyday responsibilities that we all have to deal with. The song even contains what is perhaps the album’s emblematic line with Thes One even rapping the line “A couple normal guys spreading love and some Hip-Hop, sincerely, the P. P.S. rock and you don’t stop”. Appropriately, the song leads into the track entitled ‘Letter to My son’; serving as a personal letter from Thes One to his ten year old son. Here, while on top of passing on wisdom Thes apologizes for missing the many small moments in life that musicians often do while on tour, promoting and making music. Likewise, he also instills life long lessons of kindness to others, protecting the weak and remaining true to your word. In a genre where unfortunately most emcees are more inclined to rap about the absence of their fathers and the profound impact it had on their lives as young men growing up; its refreshing and uplifting to hear a song where a father gives positive, fatherly advice to guide their children. Closing out the album is ‘The Sound of a Memory’, a final somber look back at the legacy of People Under the Stairs. As Thes One and Double K recall all the people that supported them over the years as the people they love that they have lost along the way. Beautifully crafted, dedicated to all who supported and inspired them, from friends, family, heroes and the fans the song is a fitting conclusion to the duos final album.
Clocking in at just over fifty-five minutes, the fifteen track album hovers just below the one hour mark and never lingers nor overstays its welcome. Sonically the album, is perhaps the most concisely put together piece of the work that People Under The Stairs has ever released. As an expert producers and sound engineers, Sincerely The P is a beautifully produced album and sure to go down as both Thes One’s and Double K’s magnum opus. With the the album’s use of vintage samples and live funky instrumentation blending seamlessly together; the album manages to blend together the worlds of both old and new alike; much like the legacy of the group itself. Wrapped in sentimentality, nostalgia and Hip-Hop tradition; Sincerely, The P is sure please die-hard fans, dedicated Hip-Hop heads and casual fans alike. If Sincerely, The P is indeed People Under the Stairs final album, it will mark the end of an era. Not only for L.A. but, the underground Hip-Hop scene worldwide. However, if this is truly the case and the world will never hear another People Under The Stairs album, then Sincerely, The P is perhaps the best effort fans and Hip-Hop Heads could ask for. The album doesn’t try to go out an overtly extra-extravagant note or be anything more than what the two initially set out to be nearly twenty years ago, as Thes One put it, “A couple normal guys spreading love and some Hip-Hop”. In a genre where groups and duos more often than not end up abruptly ending their runs hating one another, or worse members pass away before having the opportunity to make amends; it’s refreshing to see such a long, and storied career like that of People Under The Stairs happily come to an end unmarred by conflict, scandal or animosity. And while all good things unfortunately do eventually have to come to an end, fans can take solitude that not only do they have twenty-plus years of material to reflect back on; but likewise one final album with genuine love and care crammed into every inch. Sincerely, The P is a fitting finish to the most unique, creative Hip-Hop acts to come out of not only L.A.; but the West Coast in general. The album not serves as the group’s swan song, but perfect farewell that will tug at the heartstrings and beloved memories of Hip-Hop heads worldwide.
Sincerely, The P is available now to stream on all digital platforms, with CD and special vinyl and cassette copies available to purchase on the People Under the Stairs website.
Full Album Track Listing & Credits
2. Reach Out
3. Let the Record Show
5. The Effects of Climate Change on Densely Populated Areas
6. The Red Onion Wrap
9. We Get Around
10. Stars in the House
11. Here, for a Good Time
12. Letter to My Son
13. Family Ties
14. Dream Sequence ’88
15. The Sound of a Memory