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People Under the Stairs 

Stepfather

People Under the Stairs' fourth album sounds exactly like the first three. Thes One and Double K haven't changed their winning formula much, sticking to the light, peppy true school hip-hop that earns them a considerable underground following. Stepfather, however, doesn't have the edgy, angry undercurrent that sometimes darkened PUTS' previous two albums (particularly 2002's O.S.T.), a result of the duo's keen desire to establish themselves within L.A.'s competitive hip-hop scene.

Stepfather's engine is Thes One, who consistently culls the best bits from his collection of vinyl and rare grooves. Some of the group's songs are remarkably goofy: "Letter to the Old School" visits a time-honored theme -- the extended shout-out to various rap heroes -- and the duo raps about its favorite restaurants on "Eat Street." The net effect isn't corny but innocent and unpretentious, hearkening toward a time when rap artists cared more about having fun than practicing looking hard. 4 stars

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