Step Upby Danni Diana and Bergen Nielsen, images by JR Onyangunga / 26.11.2009
You’d be forgiven for not knowing who People Under The Stairs (P.U.T.S.) are. Not if you were me, or one of my friends, but in the greater scheme of What The Public Knows About Hip-Hop, they don’t exactly register high up there with Tribe Called Quests or Dilated Peoples of the genre. Nevertheless, they have definitely left a well styled skid mark on the hip hop road, particularly where it crosses paths with the skate community, having been a favourable choice in a substantial collection of skateboarding movies thanks to their street-feel and clever lyrics. So no guesses why I got down to venue O.S.T (the old Go-Go Bar, and, incidentally, the name of a P.U.T.S single) with some ‘erb in hand to share some of their, “do it for the love” attitude, up-close-and-personal style.
Thanks to Delta Airlines (Delta What? Delta Who?), who spurned forth some impressive delays, the gig went down a week later than originally expected. No surprises then, that through the thick haze of hash smoke; dreads; sweat and rain, the sweet smell of seven day old anticipation was thick and strong. It was finally going down!
Now, living in South Africa, I think that everybody has become pretty good at converting the theory of Official Scheduling to that of The Reality of African Time… But what the hell, it’s a Hip-Hop concert, not a kidney transplant, so the later the better! And shortly after the stroke of 12, the flavourish tunes of P.U.T.S hit the stage.
And it was awesome. The energy was ALL there. From the minute they started, the hype was up and the crowd was getting down. For me, this was a live experience that felt exactly like one of the many enjoyable car rides or skate videos that P.U.T.S had touched with their magic. It was strange to feel such a kinship to these famous dudes, not only because they’d been hanging in my living room for years, but because in-the-flesh they set a vibe that spat equality, and made the crowd feel like they needed us more than we need them! Which, I guess, if you want to talk the business of music, is the way it really is!
As the night went on, joint after joint got passed up onto stage, and the love and support from the crowd was all there.It was evident in the energy and time they put into this small, hot, and fun performance, that ‘keepin it real’ wasn’t just some meaningless MTV mantra, it was, and is, their way of life. With song lyrics like: “Our mama’s so fat.. how fat is she?” and “your mama’s got a glass eye with a fish in it” P.U.T.S are a refreshing break from the take-yourself-seriously, niggaz ‘n triggaz brand of the new school, and one whose performance is exhaustingly energetic. They physically scouted people who weren’t jamming hard enough, singled them out and told them straight that shit needed to go down now or never… And so down it went, and they shook that sardine tin of a venue for all it had.
And what more could we have asked for? They loved it, so we loved it, so they loved us, so we loved them more.
Getting to talk to them before and after the show just confirmed what the performance showed, that these are good guys, putting out good messages. They have the passion, the skill, and best of all, the balls, for gracing our dirty little inner city with their good vibes and sick beats. Props to the guys who made it happen. Absolutely worthy of the goose-bump hall of fame.
All images © and courtesy JR Onyangunga aka Dr Pachanga