Saturday, January 25, 2014

Artist Spotlight: The Coup

There are two categories of people in this world; those who have heard The Coup and those who need to. In 1993 The Coup released their first full-length album, Kill My Landlord. At the time of the album, The Coup was comprised of lead-vocalist/frontman Boots Riley, rapper E-Roc and DJ Pam the Funkstress. This album set the stage for the The Coup's characteristic political and socially-conscious lyrics that manage to keep a sly sense of wit.

Boots Riley's ability to produce such lyrics and maintain an amazing flow while doing so is nothing short of genius. At the time most hip-hop and rap groups were putting out material that showcased larger-than-life personalities or tried to glorify the "gangster" lifestyle. Kill My Landlord, however, was a breath of fresh air that dealt with the immediacy of life, often as it applied to the underprivileged. From Kill My Landlord here is the video for "Not Yet Free."
Following the release of Kill My Landlord, came 1994's Genocide & Juice. G&J contained the same line-up as the previous album and really emphasized the disparity between economic classes and the problems therein. Tracks two through four tell a tale of sorts that is a fantasy of the "have-nots" infiltrating a party of the "haves" and taking back from them. The first part of this occurs in "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish."

Following a four-year break in releases, The Coup came back better than ever with Steal This Album, an amazing mix of funk and hip-hop composed of both samples and live instrumentation. The showstopper on this album is "Me & Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night." At over seven minutes long, the song tells the story of the son of a prostitute and his final encounter with her pimp. The song was the basis for 2001's novel "Too Beautiful For Words," by Monique W. Morris. This album saw the departure of member E-Roc.

In 2001 The Coup came out with Party Music, an album that saw a change in their style. The production sounds even tighter than before and the songs have more of an "edge" to their sound. In addition, the message of social change became more wide open with songs like "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" and "Ride The Fence." The album also gained notoriety for it's unfortunately timed release. The original cover art depicted Boots and Pam in front of an image of the Twin Towers being blown up; an image that was created prior to the actual events of 9/11 but caused controversy nonetheless and saw the release date of the album being pushed back until November of 2001 when the cover art could be changed. A sample of this newer sound, as mentioned before, is on the song "Ride The Fence."

2006 saw the release of possibly my favorite Coup album to date, Pick A Bigger Weapon, featuring guests such as Black Thought and Talib Kweli and Tom Morello. It's easy to see how the musical and lyrical content of this album paved the way for the collaboration between Boots and Morello as The Street Sweeper Social Club. The album does have its more reflective moments, however, on songs such as the beautiful and heartbreaking "Tiffany Hall." Lyrically speaking, "We Are the Ones" is a highlight of the album showcasing Boots flair for mixing tough messages with his usual wit.

If you get the chance, do yourself a favor and listen to "Tiffany Hall." To hear it is to understand the range of musicality and emotion that The Coup is capable of bringing to any endeavor.
Lastly, we have 2012's Sorry To Bother You; an album of pure funk and live instrumentation. It's somewhat of a departure from the usual message of Coup albums, but damn if it doesn't make you want to get down. It comes across as a mix between Motown, P-Funk, and new school rap/rock in the best way possible. From Sorry To Bother You, here are "The Magic Clap" and "Land of 7 Billion Dances."

Currently, The Coup is out on tour and if you get the chance you need to go. While this is a good introduction to their music, one really needs to listen to the albums in their entirety to hear the full range of what The Coup can do. They have so many more songs that I would love to share if I had the chance. Pick up any album of theirs and you won't be disappointed.

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