The hip hop scene in San Diego is not what it once was. When I first moved here, an on-the-cusp-of-mainstream act (Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Common and The Roots come to mind) would swing through town on a regular basis. As time went on, this dwindled to every half year, then to once a year or less. Underground groups could be found here and there, but you had to dig for it. Last night's show at the Casbah was evidence that SD is (over)due for a resurrection, and it was damn good to witness some live hip hop once again.
Apparently, for me and many others in the community, absence makes the heart grow fonder as a good sized line had formed on a brisk evening well before the doors opened at 8:30. DJ Artistic set up early and had the 1s and 2s warmed up by the time MCs Johaz and Mr. Brady took the stage (accompanied by an 'I'm only here to dance- my show is tomorrow' Aloe Blacc) to complete a pared-down version of local mainstays Deep Rooted. Over the course of their set they did the best they could to hype up the steadily growing crowd with a mix of their past three albums, all of which have been well recognized at the San Diego Music Awards over the past five+ years.
By the time People Under The Stairs took the stage the floor had filled to capacity with a rabid crowd itching to get their hands in the air and heads a' bobbing. Common practice states that hip hop musicians show up 45 minutes late and play for a half hour. P.U.T.S. took that stereotype and put it on its ear with a show that started promptly and clocked in at just under two hours. Such is their reputation, crowd interaction was frequent and entertaining in the forms of audience requests, sidebars about 'fake-ass, lace wearin' rappers', and periodic timeouts to sample some of what the collected audience was passing around (which was in ample supply). The theme for the night was 'house party' and they made everyone present feel like they had been invited to exactly that. Thes One played the part of the gregarious, enthusiastic host- dancing in the crowd to get things going, trading verses with audience members, inviting people onstage, and generally looking like he was having as good a time as everyone else in attendance. The musical portion of the evening consisted of a steady dose of Double K dropping the beat (with some occasional mixing and scratching) followed by Thes One weaving his way through blistering verses and location-friendly freestyle, trading off with Double K and his silky smooth flow. By the end of the set, everyone who was still standing was begging for more. Happy to comply, but visually fatigued from a very active stage presence, Thes One (literally) dragged himself back on to the stage for 'just one more' (which, of course, was followed by one final barrage to finish off the night). Grateful for the experience and the turnout, both members stuck around to sign autographs and receive thanks as the tired but satisfied crowd trickled out into the cold night air.
Having spent a good portion of my college years with Reflection Eternal, Ugly Duckling, NaS, Slum Village and the like on constant rotation, inside me lies a love and appreciation for the spandex-tight lyricism and intricate mixes of a solid hip hop show. As your tastes in music progress and mature you lose touch with what, at one point or another, was the end-all-be-all of the music universe. It's good to have a reminder of why you once thought that way. I know that a good part of my day has been spent dusting off tracks on my iPod that I forgot were there, buried under the thick layer of indie rock that has been accumulating over the past several years, and I would like to personally thank People Under The Stairs for helping me rediscover them.
People Under The Stairs:
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