Over the past decade, few Hip Hop groups have embodied the DIY concept as much as Los Angeles’ People Under The Stairs. Writing, producing, and managing all their own music, MC/Producers Double K and Thes One have gained a cult following making their own brand of feel good, sunshine rap. The work ethic is inspiring, but 11 albums in, the music is becoming pretty familiar. On 12 Step Program, People Under The Stairs provide an album that will satisfy their fans. But for the non-believers, don’t expect to change your mind.
Most of these tracks cover familiar ground for the duo. Songs about beer, weed and their carefree lives make up the bulk of the record. The best bars on the project come when they switch up the subject matter though for something more serious. “Cool Story Bro” is a grim retelling of an innocent night that takes a dark turn when the two rappers run into some gang bangers in the streets. A play by play from the point of view of two different characters brings the situation to an impressive reality. Double K sees a Blood in a convenience store with “Tattoos on his face and the devil in his eye.” During a police chase, Thes One raps, “Hands start sweatin/ I’m forgetting that I’m innocent.” Lines like these are what keep rap fans on their seats waiting for someone to start shooting, but on here, they feel a little checked in. Though they’re well written and thoughtful, Double K and Thes One’s voices don’t give any intensity or emphasis. So if you’re not listening closely, it could be mistaken for just another weed reference.
The production follows in the same vein as the lyrics. None of it’s disappointing per se, but your not going to have any of these beats stuck in your head when it wraps up. The laid-back vibe of their music goes front to back, with most of these beats being appropriate for an easy drive in the sun. As usual, both produce and choose from a varied source of samples, but samples don’t make a song and without much else going, they begin to feel like an afterthought. Piano keys and bass lines all seem to feel routine by the end. The two biggest standouts come in the form of lead single “1 Up Til Sun Up” which employs old video game samples (Legend Of Zelda and Super Mario for the Nintendo aficionados out there), and “Pictures On The Wall” which has the best hook on the whole album (the Rob Ford references near the end are pretty funny too).
About 45 seconds into the second track, “Ste. For Reefer”, the beat abruptly stops and Double K shouts out “Muthafucka’s know who we are!” which sums up 12 Step Program fairly well. If you’ve heard any of People Under The Stairs’ work before, you should know what to expect. They definitely know who their fan base is, and this album is catered to them. For the rest of us though, it’s just another 12 songs from a couple guys who’ve grown comfortable in their lane and don’t feel the need to change any time soon.