Back to the “good old days”
People Under The Stairs – Live At XOYO, London

Formally known as music for the underground, in today’s climate, hip hop can be heavily associated with contemporary pop culture, with many rappers standing side-by-side with mainstream artists. A trait which separates People Under The Stairs from many of their peers. Formed in 1997, the Californian-based rap group, comprised of The One and Double K, have maintained an authentic, distinctively ‘old skool’ sound - taking hip hop back to its original essence. It’s this no frills, simple, yet artistic style of rap, that has made People Under The Stairs one of the world’s biggest (fully) independent rap groups to date.

So, after a six year hiatus from the UK, when the Los Angeles duo announces their one-off show at London’s XOYO, it’s fair to say their Brit fans relish, eagerly anticipating the rare opportunity to catch the group live.

It’s just after 9.00pm, when the The One and Double K hit the stage, to the sounds of rapturous applause from the male-dominated audience at the intimate East London venue. Dressed in casual attire (T-shirt, Jeans and shorts), the set is organically raw, just two microphones and a turntable. There are no flashing lights or elaborate props - elements which are becoming increasingly popular within the genre. But this show is purely about the music. There‘s no smoke and mirrors when it comes to People Under The Stairs, it’s all about the lyrics and rhyming – a major reason the group have maintained a consistently loyal following throughout their impressively long 15-year career.

After addressing the crowd, thanking them for their support, the group immediately get straight to business, spitting back and forth with one another. With eight studio albums and five EP’s under their belts, the rap-duo are spoilt for choice with a huge back catalogue of tracks to pick from. Songs such as “San Francisco Knights” and “Los Angeles Daze” have audiences consistently head-bopping, as they rap along word-for-word.

The hour-plus set is soothingly captivating, exuding a nostalgic vibe, as it takes revellers back to the “good old days” of hip hop. And the atmosphere in the Shoreditch venue is noticeably reflective of that. It’s calm and collective, yet subtly upbeat, whilst taking audiences on a journey down memory lane.

With the financial rewards that comes with success in mainstream hip hop continuing to soar, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see many rap groups like People Under The Stairs in the near future, who choose art over chart glory. But the silver lining is we can still experience these types of artists in a live atmosphere (even if it is only once every six years).

Words by Vanessa Laker


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