In 2019 Los Angeles-based hip-hop duo People Under the Stairs released their swan song Sincerely, The P. Featuring impressive cuts like “The Effects of Climate Change on Densely Populated Areas,” the album provided longtime fans with one more dose of Double K and Thes One’s intricate sample-based production and clever lyrics. Laced with an added element of reflectiveness due to their mutual decision to step away from the game, the record is perhaps one of the more serious entries in their vast catalog.
Sincerely, The P comes to a close with the lump-in-throat inducing “The Sound of a Memory,” a moving tribute to deceased loved ones and legends of the music industry. The news of Double K’s unexpected passing on Saturday night gives the song an added layer of somber emotional weight.
Double K and Thes One first teamed up 26 years before the release of their final LP when they were only 16 years old. They formed a remarkable collaborative union that yielded 10 studio albums, numerous compilations, and several EPs over a 21 year span.
1998’s The Next Step marked their first official album. Originally self-released and then later picked up re-released on OM Records, some peers initially doubted their talent. Proving the haters wrong, songs like “San Francisco Knights” quickly became underground anthems that remain popular today. "The Next Step II" also provided the group an extra dose of attention when it was featured in the hit video game Tony Hawk's Underground.
When the duo dropped Question in the Form of an Answer in late spring of 2000 it provided them with more recognition and further touring opportunities. It also added songs like “Earth Travelers” to their collection of enduring underground favorites. Here’s a video of Thes One breaking down the instrumental, which is incredible.
It’s sometimes difficult for rap groups to keep up the same level of enthusiasm and quality demonstrated on their first two albums. Thankfully, Thes and Double K had no need to stress the potential third album curse when they unveiled O.S.T. two years after Question in the Form of an Answer.
Pitchfork’s Sam Chennault gave the album a 7.7/10 review while praising the duo’s deftly executed co-produced beats. The instrumentals—which lean heavily on a cache of records amassed during a 2001 European tour—hold up incredibly well and will likely continue to age nicely given their timeless feel.
While "The Dig,” “Montego Slay,” "The L.A. Song," and other selections were all popular with fans, “Acid Raindrops” quickly became one of the groups signature musical moments and an essential element at live shows. The song is also experiencing newfound popularity on several different streaming platforms.
Rap is a genre where artists sometimes struggle to age gracefully, but PUTS seemed to have no trouble with this as they dropped seven additional full-length records in the 18 years that followed O.S.T. They constantly found ways to innovate and evolve their sound sound without chasing trends.
They also showed an admirable willingness to fight for the integrity of their work. When demo versions of their 2006 album Stepfather started making their way around the internet, Thes and Double K recorded a fake version of the record to fuck with bootleggers.
Though not all of their later work received the same level attention as their first three album run, People Under the Stairs continued to impress until the very end. The lone single “1 Up Til Sun Up” from their 2014 effort 12 Step Program had them sounding as fresh as ever with Double K effortlessly spitting bars over the song’s video-game sampled beat.
It’s not hyperbole to say that Double K was a rare talent. He rapped on and co-produced hundreds of quality songs that are sure to leave behind an enduring and important musical legacy. He was a relatable MC with a sense of humor, a healthy dose of introspection, and an ability to—as he told us on “Earth Travelers”—“Put everything I been thinking into one long verse.”
And yet music journalists (including this one) failed to give Double K the individual and People Under the Stairs the group enough praise while he was here to enjoy it. For a two-man act to release 10 steller albums in 21 years is an unheard of level of consistency that needs to be celebrated. We should have written more pieces about them and about him.
The story of People Under the Stairs ultimately deserves to be told in book form. I truly hope such a project happens at some point. If someone writes that book I’ll be happy, but I’ll also mourn the fact that Double K isn’t here to see it.
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