People Under the Stairs

    {grate 4}

    Fun. It’s devastating, it’s hard hitting, its mind blowing. What can I say? It kicks ass.”

    Fun DMC is two B-boys’ return to those Los Angeles-afternoon barbeques in the dead of summer — an endearing tribute by underground producer-emcees Thes One and Double K to the days when hip-hop was not just an expression of daily struggles, but an outlet to release inner-city stress — in short, to have some fun.

    People Under the Stairs effectively pay their dues to the old school, both in lyrical craft and affectionate, crate-digging production. Thes One emulates legend Jam-Master-Jay’s percussion layout, lacing the classic blueprint with manic snare and hi-hat loops accompanied by well-rationed bass drums. Opening track “The Swan Fever” sets up the backyard party, as attendees holler over an infectious, energized trumpet crescendo; the bash only gets louder with “Up Yo Spine,” a live recording given a block-party feel by the clapping of the crowd.

    Thes One’s copious throwbacks add undeniable charm to his production. “The Ultimate 144” is a seamless composition of celebrated beats from gurus like Eric B., Jam-Master-Jay and DJ Kay Jee, sure to tickle those nostalgic nerves among every degree of hip-hop head. A sample of Tupac’s “California Love” is spun with a faint conga loop beneath a rapid-clap beat for a respectable nod to Dr. Dre.

    Although the majority of Fun DMC flows in this finesse, it’s not free of irregularities. The mushy reggae-rap of “People Riddum” is blessed with catchy vocals, yet is discordantly uncharacteristic of PUTS’ brass-and-drum production style; and though reminiscent ballad “D” pays musically sound respect to lost loved ones, its dreary ambience is unbefitting of such an upbeat record.

    Fun DMC’s shine is in the polish: Whether with a clever Pharcyde sound bite or between-track party conversation, the close attention to detail makes this tribute a reflective success in its own right. Summer might be over, but there’s no reason we can’t keep celebrating.

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