One of the best live sets we saw this summer was by Los Angeles hip-hop duo People Under the Stairs, whose energy transformed a muddy Bonnaroo Day into a wild house party with jumping bass and MCs Thes One and Double K's dope rhymes about -- what else? -- smoking weed and drinking booze!
The duo's set drew a larger crowd than hot indie acts like Passion Pit and Janelle Monáe. But to most music fans, they remain an underground obscurity.
That's beginning to change with their latest release, Carried Away. Download one of the album's best tracks, "Step Off," below.
Much like their live shows, the duo's new album is all about spontaneity. "We were just so hyped off of the Coachella and Bonnaroo sets, and wejust had this feeling of, 'Lets do something to show the feeling of usonstage,'" Thes One tells SPIN.com. "We wanted to get that feel of,'This is who we are.'"
Turns out, being who they are involved a specific recording technique: "We went into CVS [drug store] one morning and they decided to dismantle their wine section, so every bottle was $1.99. I bought five cases of wine. We would go into the studio everyday and start recording at 9 A.M. and we'd be drinking wine to create a vibe. As long as we're having fun and getting drunk, we're fine."
The album's songs deliver the same casual vibe.
"Trippin' at the Disco," an ode to partying in L.A., rocks on drum and horn samples from the 1970s. "Beer" is a silly rap track a la Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" with lo-fi drum machine beats and back-and-fourth rhymes ("Oh, you like hanging on Twitter / And we like beer!"). And "Step Off," which begins with voiceover from a 1950s PSA about drug use, flows on a smooth sample that Double K created back in 1996.
Carried Away debuted at No. 5 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart last month, a success the duo has never experienced before. And now they are preparing for a tour of Africa, which Thes is busy booking from his home office."It's been a pain in the balls but it can be rewarding," he says. "We did a tour of China at the beginning of the year and I had to coordinate the whole thing. It's really rewarding to come home and be like, 'Hell yeah, we just did a sold-out tour in China!'"
LISTEN: People Under the Stairs, "Step Off"(DOWNLOAD MP3)