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Stairway to hip-hop

People Under the Stairs celebrates a decade at the bottom


Stare-masters: PUTS says hip-hops lineage has fallen - apart.
  • Stare-masters: PUTS says hip-hops lineage has fallen apart.

Hip-hop may be the most Darwinian of music genres. Career longevity is a luxury of the select few in a musical form where a three-record stint is considered long-term success. Despite its anti-commercial vibe, the underground hip-hop scene hasn't been much better for ensuring long-term careers. Constantly having to hustle to be heard above the din of commercial hip-hop and b-boy fakers, most shining stars of the resurgent underground hip-hop class of '98 are long-gone.

Not Double K and Thes One of People Under the Stairs. While most of their contemporaries have become historical footnotes, the duo has only grown bigger and more successful over the course of a decade and five releases. Thes One, aka Christopher Portugal, knows the pitfalls of the underground hip-hop game better than most. He's watched many of his contemporaries fall prey to them, but has emerged triumphant, and even more unusual, venerable.

"We were kind of the last generation of those [underground] dudes," he says, referring to the vibrant Southern California independent hip-hop scene in the late-'90s, which spawned the likes of Jurassic 5. "The lineage of hip-hop has fallen apart. A lot of the people from that era, like J-5, aren't doing that thing anymore. We're the last of that era, as far as I know."

As People Under the Stairs work on their as-yet-unnamed sixth record to be released this September Thes One notes the duo is aware of its place in hip-hop history, and its need to come out with guns blazing.

"This record's really important," he says. "We want to show that this is two guys still doing our thing, and that this is the only thing we do."

That thing they do a mixture of political uplift and good-times party jams has become a dependable formula, but they're not treading water. After the politically charged 2006 album Stepfather, People Under the Stairs is returning to their party-hardy roots.

"With this record, we want to just make a fun record; we don't want to get too political, like the last one. There's so much politics going on right now, we're trying to escape that in our music and just do a real fun record," he says.

As the group heads out on a short tour to preview the new record for a few of its favorite audiences, Thes One is thankful for his supporters and undaunted by the challenges ahead.

"We want to get out there and be in front of people Colorado's been really good to us, at times better to us than New York or L.A."

Thes One remains undaunted by the machinations of the music industry, and is ready for more. With the sort of tenacity that has earned the group its hard-won longevity, he declares, "I guess [with this album and tour] we're saying to people 10 years and six records, and we're not going anywhere, so get used to it."

People Under the Stairs, with Stillcatchinwreck, Distrakt, Found*ded Family
The Black Sheep,
2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, May 3, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $13 in advance,
$15 day-of-show, all ages; call 866/468-7621 or visit
To Download: People Under the Stairs

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