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The Next Step

People Under the Stairs

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Album Review

Before finding a home further north on San Francisco's Om label, People Under the Stairs released this debut set of understated productions and steady rhymes via their own PUTS imprint. The subject matter on display is hardly unusual, taking in the requisite MC boasting ("Ten Tough Guys"), three tales of hip-hop love gone sour ("The Turndown"), inebriation out on the town ("Mid-City Fiesta"), and odes to the group's birthplace ("Los Angeles Daze") and their adopted home ("San Francisco Knights"). Unfortunately, the duo fails to follow up on the promise of "Death of a Salesman," a gem of dizzying storytelling that arrives early on. Elsewhere, though the train of thought is more easily followed, the two MCs remain well above par, applying the same agile wordplay to almost everything in sight. Stark outlines of rugged, organic beats are tastefully fleshed out by anonymous walking basslines, horn traces, and ominous keyboard chords from deep record crates. These samples set the stage without dominating it as The Next Step manages to dodge most of the jazz-rap pitfalls. Ultimately however, the album falls under the category of "promising debut." PUTS' independent philosophy and their "true school" tag created high expectations during a time when the hip-hop underground was attempting to establish the music's role as "art not income" ("Wannabes"). Yet, rather than "developing a new system" ("Intro/4 Everybody"), The Next Step finds People Under the Stairs performing quite well within the boundaries of old.

Biography

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The underground hip-hop outfit People Under the Stairs was formed by Mike Turner (Double K) and Chris Portugal (Thes One), who met on the fringe of L.A.'s late-'90s hip-hop underground. The duo, devoted to jazzy samples, danceable beats, intricate rhyming skills, and laid-back humor, debuted in 1998 with the acclaimed The Next Step and followed it up in 2000 with Question in the Form of an Answer. Gathering heavy praise and touring with De La Soul, the group took their road experiences and brought...
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The Next Step, People Under the Stairs
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