The Original Soundtrack, Curated by the PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

IF I COULD ONLY own one album on vinyl in my life, I’m taking OST by People Under The Stairs (PUTS) 11 times out of 10. For hip hop heads or really anyone who appreciates the “golden era” of rap, PUTS was one of the 90s hold overs that continued to embody the soul of that generation through the first two decades of the 21st century.

Formed in 1997, LA’s duo of Double K and Thes One had a more active and lengthy career in the game then nearly all of your favorite artists, dropping 15 projects in 21 years with their final album - Sincerely, the P - releasing in 2019. Despite putting out so much music, the duo remained loyal to their 90s roots, finding new ways to incorporate many aspects of earlier hip hop, drawing from genres like jazz, funk, and rock… just take a listen, you’ll know exactly what I mean the second you turn it on.

To me, one of the most impressive things about PUTS was the that they did everything themselves. At this point, it’s relatively well known that there’s a number of artists out there who both make the beats and write the rhymes with Kanye, J Cole, and Mac Miller being a few of the more famous examples. But PUTS took it a step or two further, truly doing it all. I’m talking writing, producing, DJing, performing, and even going as far as personally doing their own sampling (which I assume came from being avid vinyl collectors). I’ve always been impressed with multifaceted artists so this really caught my eye when I first found the group.

Being a DIY group had my curiosity, but what held my attention was PUTS’ content material. Unlike the great majority, PUTS largely avoided common tropes found in rap like activism, materialism, and gangster themes, instead turning more to slice-of-life topics, something I've always been a fan of regardless of the medium they’re portrayed through. It Was a Good Day by Ice Cube is a perfect example of a single song representing this sub-genre but while Cube took advantage of it on one song, PUTS made a career off of this niche. Realistically (and sadly), I don’t think it’s ever meant for the mainstream cause I know it’s not for everyone, especially on the level that PUTS took it. But for those who do appreciate it, you only get complete transparency from your favorite artist. Many artists get criticism thrown at them for not opening up or diving deep enough in their music, an issue that PUTS never had a problem with, making them insanely relatable. It seems like the group only ever talked about their life, creating a bond between themselves and their fans that many artists can never reach. Listening to their music puts you on the couch, stuck right between the two, chopping it up about who knows what. What they rapped about almost became less important than how they rapped - if you didn't feel like you were part of a personal conversation with them was it really even a PUTS song?

With so much music out, feeling anxious as you stare down a huge ass catalog would only be the natural feeling - I know I was at the jump. I hinted at it in the intro, but OST is the place to dive in. To start, it produced many of their most well known songs, and for good reason. The album through and through epitomizes what made the duo so strong: clever word play woven perfectly into beats that were custom-made to each verse. The Intro starts the album off, letting other rappers know they ain’t shit while showing their fans and hometown some love. Almost immediately, the vibes kick in and a two parter - Suite for Beaver - tells the story of a long day followed up by a night out at the club chasing women with the boys. This is PUTS at their finest. If It Was a Good Day was a movie of Ice Cube’s life, OST is the full novel about one era of PUTS’ and these two tracks are just a couple chapters. Some artists mess around with painting a picture but PUTS gave you the whole damn thing and didn’t worry about wasting words. It’s transparent and relatable as hell and as I write this in the middle of this pandemic with the album playing in my headphones, I’ve got a whole lot of great memories flashing back to many of the things they rap about. For me, this is the essence of PUTS and the remaining 16 tracks of OST build off the album’s extremely strong start.

I know this is a long start to the DTC series and I promise not all will be like this, but this time around, it’s necessary. For one, the group never earned the respect they deserved. Sure artists, producers, and people scattered through the industry hold the group highly, but the public just doesn’t know about the group like they should. But, when a group puts out nothing less than amazing beats drawn from such a wide range of sources that just happen to blend perfectly with my favorite slice-of-life rhymes, I gotta do my due diligence.

Before I wrap this up, I gotta take a moment to mention the passing of Double K just over a month ago, leaving a lasting impression on everyone who knew of him. He'll be greatly missed, not just by those closest to him but also all the people his music touched. Alongside Thes Ones, the two lived and breathed their “independent” title, working as hard as anyone in the industry, demanding respect along the way, mine which they'll have forever.

PERSONAL FAVORITES: Intro, Suite For Beaver (Pt. 1 and 2), Montego Slay, LA Song, Acid Raindrops -- all of these are great songs (strictly from OST) but for real just listen to the whole damn album... start to finish, you won’t be disappointed

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