[1 September 2008]
The greatest hits compilation is a strange animal. Many times, it’s a cheap, half-hearted effort that just plunks down all the Top 40 tracks onto a disc or two. Yes, they can be used to introduce you to an act with a huge discography, but they are typically cop outs. And sometimes, artists use these collections as a means of getting out of a record contract. Let’s take a look at the recently released Radiohead: The Best Of as an example. While it highlights most of the group’s hits, EMI, the band’s former record label, probably didn’t even consult Thom Yorke and the guys. It’s true that Radiohead had left the label, but that doesn’t mean it had to be a rushed, hack-job of a compilation. Then again, EMI is a business before anything so there’s no real mystery to why it just tossed the two-disc effort out there.
Yet, all those problems aside, there was one key factor that made The Best Of worth at least one listen: “Talk Show Host” off the “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” single. And that is where People Under the Stairs’ collection, The Om Years, comes in. Like Radiohead, this is a retrospective thrown together by PUTS’ former record label. Unlike those Brits, however, this California duo wasn’t screwed over by any higher-ups. Clearly, Om enjoyed PUTS’ stay on the label. If not, chances are we would not be treated to such a solid and cohesive compilation. Although the first disc is your standard grab-bag of “greatest hits,” the second, shorter CD is filled with rarities and b-sides that perhaps many PUTS fans haven’t heard before. And if they have, the tracks were more than likely found on some torrent or blog site since the original formats aren’t exactly easy to find these days.
Clocking in at just over two hours, The Om Years tells the PUTS story across 31 tracks. But unlike many lengthy albums, this one is well worth your time. New and old fans alike have good reason to spin this. Of course, those not acquainted with this talented duo of rapper-producers will find it most useful. With songs from The Next Step, Question in the Form of an Answer, and O.S.T. (Original Soundtrack), new listeners are treated to solid cuts perfect for easing you into the growing PUTS catalog. I highly doubt anyone with a love for hip-hop could deny outstanding tracks like “San Francisco Knights” and “Acid Raindrops”, the latter being one of the best weed anthems ever recorded. And good luck staying still when “Hang Loose” starts up; it is easily one of the funkiest tracks I have heard creep out of the California underground. As for those long-time PUTS fans, it’s just like I wrote earlier. All of the rarities and b-sides filling the second disc will leave you salivating for what else could possibly be out there that you haven’t heard yet. For example, the 50 Cent parody “Out Da Club” further displays PUTS’ undeniable sarcastic wit. And the two instrumentals are a nice treat for listeners who cannot get enough of that hazy, funky production. Also, I was completely unaware of a “Hang Loose Pt. 2”. Thanks, Om!
More important than all of that, however, is what the tracks on here do for this duo. The music on The Om Years highlights exactly why these under-appreciated guys from L.A. need to be heard. Whether they are rapping, producing, or DJing, Thes One and Double K never cease to bring creativity and passion to the table. Yet, for whatever reason, they do not get the attention they deserve. Perhaps it’s the fact that their sound is relatively, and I use that term loosely, similar to the Pharcyde. Both groups rely on jazzy backdrops for tracks that tell stories about everyday life. And these Cali-based acts have a particularly strong penchant for marijuana. But the similarities end there. And both the Pharcyde and PUTS deserve their respective amount of time in the limelight. This compilation also gives the tracks off the first two albums their due shine. There is no denying the fact that O.S.T. gets the most attention out of PUTS’ three Om efforts. But hopefully this collection will change that.