Thes-One (of People Under The Stairs) Talks About New Album, Hearing His Beats On TV, and Having An Angry Shirtless Will.I.Am In His Face.
By David Ma
Beats, rhymes, and good times. This formula has given People Under The Stairs 7 fun albums and 10 years of success. They have an affinity for past hip-hop and a penchant for extracting its best parts. Everything you hear, the cuts, the raps, the scratches, the beats, everything, is handled by PUTS and no one else (they don’t believe in guest spots “unless dude’s a homie”). Their new album, Carried Away, marks a return to OM Records and is a benchmark in their quietly building career.
The LA natives, Thes One and Double K, recently played sold out shows in China and, for the first time, played at Bonnaroo and Coachella. They have a following based on past work (see: “Acid Raindrops” and “San Francisco Knights”) but this project is quickly aiding their expansion. On Carried Away, the two represent their city (“Down In LA”) through a celebration of hip-hop (“Check The Vibe”), weed (“C’mon Let’s Get High”), and getting faded (“Beer”). The skits are funny and there’s no unneeded seriousness. Like some of the smart, grounded hip-hop that influenced their own, PUTS might blow up—but they won’t go pop. Here’s a long talk with Thes One (pictured above, left) about some recent experiences.
Talk about the new album. What was going on while you guys were making this?
Making this new album was crazy—crazy in a good way. We dropped Fun DMC at about the same time last year, and right after that we started prepping for our 10- year anniversary show at the El Rey Theatre here in LA. I don’t think anyone in the industry expected the show to sell out, let alone packed to capacity. It kind of sealed the deal for me and Mike (Double K) and made us think: ‘Okay, we’re really doing this!’ A month later we left to tour China and that was sold out every night. We’re just completely hyped on the last 8 months.
When did you have time to work on Carried Away?
We were working practically every day 9-5 on it, drinking a lot of beer and wine along the way. We locked the studio door and laid down what we were feeling. It’s awesome that people other than us like the record! We were grabbing anything we could to get ideas and moods down on tape. Everything from Mexican Psychedelia to Folky Beard shit!
As the group’s producer, and as a collector, you’re always looking for vinyl I’m sure. What’s the last record you scored?
1619, Bad Ass Band. It’s been on my want list for a decade and Cool Chris at Groove Merchant (San Francisco record store) recently hooked me up with an original pressing for $800. I couldn’t complain at all! That’s what we’re in this for. Buy records, sample records, make money, buy more records!
Has your outlook towards collecting changed now that you’re older?
I used to have a blast dragging Cut Chemist to this record spot even though I knew we wouldn’t find any records. It was it was a good opportunity to talk a bunch of shit in the car and get a turkey burger at Tom’s Farms outside of Lake Elsinore. So I go in with that mindset. I don’t expect to find anything but I know if I just sit back and enjoy the ride, I’ll have an experience to remember my whole life. It’s all about the process of searching. Good times.
What about your experience battling Will.I.Am? Now that the Soundclash DVD came out, a lot of people were able to finally see it. Why did he take his shirt off?
Dude, if I only knew the answer to that question [laughs]! I have no idea why a dude would do that in a beat battle. Maybe he was on ecstasy or some rave shit. I don’t know. It wasn’t hot in there—I had a tuxedo on and felt fine. And I weighed more back then too. So I can’t answer you. Maybe if I knew the answer I would be multi-platinum. Maybe showing your tits is what it takes.
Were there other parts of that battle that wasn’t captured on film?
Seriously though, there’s a lot on that battle that was either edited out or wasn’t taped.
Like when Polo, Will.I.Am’s manager and same dude who recently hit that boy Perez Hilton, tried to start a fight with me on Will’s behalf. I was just laughing like, ‘man are you guys serious?’ This dude is on stage with two G4 Apples, a pro tools HD rig, three MPC 3000’s and a full midi keyboard, an entourage of 20 girls and his boys, and I’m up there alone. Double K wasn’t even there. This motherfucker had two roadies there just to load and unload his gear that night. I was like ‘wow!’ It was on some David vs. Goliath shit behind the scenes. So I wish the video would have captured that. But if I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.