Double K, a member of the Los Angeles underground rap duo People Under the Stairs, died Saturday at the age of 43. The rapper died at his home, per the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, though no cause of death was given.
Born Michael Turner, Double K and his cohort Thes One (Christopher Portugal) formed the duo People Under the Stars as high schoolers in the mid-Nineties. Both had already been producing music in high school when they linked, first meeting with a mutual friend to decide whose music was superior. They decided to join forces instead.
“Where I grew up, there was the negative, and I had the positive, which was my music,” Turner told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “I was surrounded by the negativity, the things going on in the streets, the stuff that I thought that I wanted to be a part of. I decided that this was more important. I just holed up in my room, listening to music, and then I met this dude and I had somebody else to listen to music with.”
In 1998, they released their debut LP The Next Step, featuring one of their signature tracks, “San Francisco Knights.” While mainstream success eluded them, People Under the Stairs formed a cult following in the rap community thanks to albums like 2000’s Question in the Form of an Answer and 2002’s O.S.T., the duo’s most enduring release.
The late rapper Mac Miller was also a fan of the duo, titling a song on his 2011 mixtape I Love Life, Thank You “People Under the Stairs“; the track also sampled “San Francisco Knights.” The duo were invited to serve as opening act on Miller’s 2011 tour.
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The group continued to release music and relentlessly toured upwards of 60 shows in a row, with hip-hop journalist Jeff Weiss noting their “hodgepodge of the jazzy flirtations of Tribe Called Quest, the goofy, laid-back attitude of the Pharcyde and the stoner insouciance of the Beatnuts” in a 2009 profile of the group. After over two decades together, People Under the Stairs announced in January 2019 that they would call it quits following their 12th studio LP, Sincerely, The P.
“I think a lot of the people who grew up with us, they still want us to rap about partying, road trips and buying records, and we’re just like, ‘Man, how many times can I say it?’” Turner told the L.A. Times at the time. ““Most of my favorite rap groups only made it to three [albums], and the third one sucked.”
In that farewell interview, it was noted that “Once a towering figure, Double K now looks much frailer and his hands shake as he talks.”
Fans and Turner’s fellow rappers flocked to social media to pay tribute to the musician. “What a dope persona and artist,” Psalm One tweeted. “One of my first big national tours PUTS was gracious enough to take me out. Double K was a fucking west coast pioneer.”