People Under The Stairs at The Mid (Qwel & Maker, The Palmer Squares)

Kendrick Lamar set the hip-hop game on fire last week with an injection of lyricism with his verse on Big Sean’s “Control”. While the greater rap world reacted like a TMZ reporter on ecstasy , it isn’t anything new. Thes One and Double K of People Under The Stairs lobbed a wordplay bomb from Los Angeles long before Kendrick had a vibe to kill.

Rapping over soulful, distinctly west coast beats the pair, better known as People Under The Stairs began an organic and sustainable career that brings them to Chicago Friday for a show at The Mid with local acts Qwel & Maker and The Palmer Squares.

To be sure, People Under The Stairs used steady lyricism to ride through perhaps the most tumultuous time in hip-hop’s brief history, known to many as the “ringtone rap” days, and stay relevant today with crafty penmanship. As far as that Kendrick verse is concerned, Thes One has an interesting take:

“The net effect of Kendrick’s career has been unbelievably positive for young kids and kids who are looking to get into rap,” said Thes One. “We had nobody trying to rap and be lyrical and even be about MC’ing for a long time out here on the West Coast. Kendrick Lamar, as far as this young generation goes, reinvented the wheel out here.”

While Kendrick’s impact on the overall hip-hop world is easily noticeable and increasingly more potent, much of the new school wouldn’t have a template from which to work off if it weren’t for acts like People Under The Stairs.

The lyrical onus and boom-bap-ish beats we are seeing today from acts like Mac Miller, Wale and Kendrick are in a direct 20 year loop to the Golden Age of hip-hop that Thes One and Double K carry the torch for. There would certainly be hip-hop if PUTS never made a song together, but it wouldn’t be as quality as it is today.

For their sakes, Qwel & Maker and The Palmer Squares can certainly point to their predecessors for inspiration; their music closely mirrors aspects of the West Coast crafters.

“I was bumpin’ P.U.T.S. well before The Palmer Squares days, so the fact that we get to share the stage with them at The Mid this weekend is huge,” said Acumental of The Palmer Squares. “Qwel has always been a big lyrical influence for us too and Maker’s “Shooting The Breeze” CD used to never leave my car stereo.”

“”I’m excited that we have a lineup where we feel like the other acts we’re playing with are akin to us,” saif Thes One.

Kendrick may have set the hip-hop game ablaze with his incendiary verse last week, but really only brought attention back to the essence of rap, wordplay and witty lyricism. Friday night at The Mid there will be an opportunity to take in a healthy dose.

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Jake Krzeczowski

Jake Krzeczowski is a writer based in Chicago. Since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2012 he has written for the likes of The Chicago Sun Times, Complex Magazine, and Elevator Magazine.

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