People Under the Stairs follow up their excellent 2007 disc, "Stepfather," with a continuation of their love for old-school hip-hop that takes the Beastie Boys' sense of fun and gives it a mellow California makeover. "Fun DMC" is a refreshing blast of high-energy rap and nimble lyricism.
Rap takes itself way too seriously, way too much of the time. I’m fully aware of the social circumstances that inform many of its stars, but I’m talking more along the lines of all the music-video posturing, rather than the genre as a platform for social commentary.
Run DMC, while they certainly hit on the trials and tribulations of growing up poor in New York City, still realized that hip-hop could also function as an escape; that the people coming to see them didn’t just want social commentary… they wanted to get down.
“We make music. People dance,” was written in small letters on the back of People Under the Stairs’ (PUTS) excellent 2007 album, "Stepfather," and it couldn’t have been more true. The disc was chock full of jazz- and funk-based hip-hop that had just the right measure of bounce to work on the dance floor, with an equal pinch of crafty lyricism.
Working a title that continues PUTS’s dedication to the old school, "Fun DMC" takes the classic Queens trio’s rap-heyday aesthetics, combines them with the Beastie Boys’ love of rapping about nothing in particular, and transports it all to sunny California.
When you think about it, it’s easy to see how a lot of rappers fall into the trap of acting like gangsters when they’re really not. Rapping about nothing is hard. PUTS’s Double K and producer-MC Thes One have no trouble with it, though.
"Fun DMC" goes light on the social commentary and gangsta rap, but does an excellent job in capturing every detail and nuance of everyday life in a no-nonsense, fun way: a light guitar loop and heavy hand claps make “Anotha (BBQ)” feel like a hot summer day; Thes One flips the vocoder chorus from 2Pac’s “California Love” (and flips his own beat inside out as well!) for “California,” and Super-Mario-style 8-bit bleeps form the core of “Gamin’ on Ya,” where Double K and Thes One lounge around the house and name-check their favorite video games.
MTV fans may find little familiar in "Fun DMC:" there’s precious few booties bouncing, no clever references about selling cocaine and no one’s rolling on 24’s.
What it does contain is a refreshing blast of old-school hip-hop aesthetic, with just the right modern touches and a heavy dose of nimble lyricism.
PUTS makes music. People should dance.