Playing songs about the place where you grew up is a tradition that’s as old as music. Bruce Springsteen wrote “My Hometown” and Ben E. King sang “Spanish Harlem.” People Under the Stairs are a hip-hop group that lays down solid tracks about their hometown of Los Angeles with a lyrical ability has earned them a fanbase across the planet.
The group is composed of two members, Thes One and Double K. Inland Empire Weekly spoke with Thes One about keeping up with the Internet, touring the world, and their newest album, Highlighter.
I’m sure you’ve had to talk to the press a lot since your band’s first album. What’s that still like, after so many interviews over the span of your career?
Being able to talk to the press is so different now. It’s a blessing and a curse. There was a time when a press person was a gatekeeper. Now, anyone can write anything they want, and all of those opinions just get tacked on. It’s the anonymity of the Internet.
In the past, a critic had to stand by what they said. Now, you just have “Toker420.” I remember how there was a time when an album came out, and I’d be on the beach with a drink. Now I’m sitting in front of two laptops, babysitting the Internet.
Highlighter is your eigth LP. If a person has never heard of you before, what’s in this for them?
Every album is really personal for us, so it’s always going to be different. We don’t just make a bunch of songs, we make albums with songs that work together. We wanted the album to rise up to a fast pace, to be a party album, and with a lot of energy in the lyrics so that the record has a harder feel to it.
There’s a lot of energy going on in L.A. right now that’s just like that, but we don’t write songs about what people should do. I think the younger generation is getting into music, and that’s what matters.
A lot of your music is about life in Los Angeles, but your fans in other cities all across the globe enjoy it. Does this mean that L.A. is a little like every city on the planet?
I think so. It calls into question what people’s perception of L.A. is. I’m Latino and Double K is black. In L.A., that’s no big deal, but on the road they’d think I was the manager, or he was the security. People would book us in Europe, and expect something completely different.
Everybody has their eye on California and L.A. In our career it’s been fun to not be the gangster rap group. We’ve been more like the Red Hot Chili Peppers…like a local group.
So it forced us to write more about L.A. so we could tell people what it’s really like. But there’s also a fake aspect of L.A. that people only see, so we try to represent what they don’t see and break stereotypes.