PUTS’ Thes One (left) and Double K put some fun back into underground hip-hop.
PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS with NOTES TO SELF and CIRCLE RESEARCH at El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Wednesday (August 13), 8 pm (doors). 19+. $15 advance at Ticketmaster, Rotate This, Soundscapes and Play de Record. 416-870-8000.
On Nas's still-relevant hip hop is Dead album, one particular song stands out: Carry On Tradition. It addresses the importance of hip-hop heads continuing to use the basic building blocks of the boom-bap belief system: it don't stop and it don't quit.
Los Angeles-based underground mainstay People Under the Stairs adhere to that commandment with truly religious conviction.
PUTS's fifth album, cleverly christened Fun DMC (Gold Dust), should resonate with new people seeking that good ol' head-nodding feeling and anxious old disciples underwhelmed by the group's last LP, Stepfather. PUTS appeals to a whole realm off those radars, whether the hipster contingent or the coke-selling hustler/rapper crowd, and they wouldn't have it any other way.
"I know a lot of cool cats might have missed out on us because they think our name indicates one thing or another, but it's been a blessing for us to keep people away," says Thes One. "We don't want them dudes as fans. We don't want them to know what we're up to. Fun DMC is who we are: we just make real hip-hop. It'll be there for the fans, and everyone else who is trying to front or has issues or problems, they can stay away."
I ask the requisite "Is the new album done? What are your concepts? Who's on it?" questions and am stunned by the response: "Nobody's on it."
Keeping their own traditions alive, Thes says he and multidisciplinary hip-hop artist Double K are going it alone yet again (save for the rare fan-appreciated Mark Farina remix project).
"The only person we had on the last record was George Clinton, cuz he's a friend. Like always, we got no outside production, no outside rappers - just the homies from the 'hood."
PUTS's 7th Commandment: Thou shalt not collaborate?
Internet leaks and critical opposition matter less and less in this splintered marketplace. As long as you have enough fans to keep the operation afloat, haters be damned, right? People Under the Stairs' music allows Thes One and Double K to feed their families, own property and travel the world on the strength of their indie legacy.
Like hip-hop missionaries, they place unbreakable faith in their own music, knowing the spirit of "real hip-hop" still occasionally flares up with religious zeal, from "J Dilla Changed My Life" T-shirts to the cult of Lil Wayne currently ensnaring non-believers with mutating momentum (2 million and counting). They've achieved a comfortable life, which in this decaying music industry is a luxury even some superstars can't claim to possess.
"To me, that's the most rewarding thing: we're leading by example. We're not giving a fuck. We keep building."
People Under The Stairs: