Heres the answer to a potential trivia question: Highlighter, Los Angeles-based hip-hop duo People Under the Stairs (PUTS) eighth full-length, is the first album to ever be released in 24-bit HD-AAC format. In laymans terms, that means it sounds fractionally better than most albums while munching up a whole lot of hard drive space. Apart from that, its mostly a typical PUTS album: warm, slick, and unmistakably sample-heavy. And thats hardly something to gripe about.
At this point, the groups members, Thes One and Double K, are becoming underground rap elder statesmen; their first album together, The Next Step, was released in 1998. But while that would seemingly give them a certain swagger, they still come across as workhorses. Highlighters songs evidence that in spades. The brass-driven Too Much Birthday evokes EPMDs The Steve Martin, while the reflective This Lifetime would probably sound great while sitting on a Cali beach and watching the sun dip below the horizon. Most of the innumerable samples used here were probably culled from the bottom of an Amoeba Music dollar bin, but a few are easily recognizable. Just to name three, there are slices of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Under the Bridge, a sitar cover of Nirvanas Smells Like Teen Spirit, and a brief interpolation of Audio Twos Top Billin.
Lyrically, the guys are giving us more of the same. Cant Hold It Back is an ode to PUTS loyal fan base (The radio dissed us, but the crowd kept clappin), Foolish People features an account of a Double K acid trip, and WRLA references the Wu-Tang Clan and Tony! Toni! Toné! Few individual rhymes are especially impressive, but based on PUTS history, thats not surprising.
Since only a handful of the 18 tracks here really stand out on their own, Highlighter is best taken as a whole. If you arent a fan of PUTS previous efforts, you wont be into this either, but its a sturdy production from two guys who have a catalog full of them.
Essential Tracks: Too Much Birthday, This Lifetime, and Cant Hold It Back