The Coup

Party Music

The Coup -  Party Music ©2001 Tommy Boy
1. Everythang
2. 5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO
3. Wear Clean Draws
4. Ghetto Manifesto
5. Get Up
6. Tight
7. Ride The Fence
8. Nowalaters
9. Pork And Beef
10. Heven Tonight
11. Thought About It 2
12. Lazy Muthafucka

The Coup is the brainchild or rapper Boots Riley, the son of a Bay Area Black Panther, and a well-known figure among the Oakland radicals. The Coup are masters of the politicized party mix, with soul, funkadelic, and what sounds a hell of a lot like industrial forming a danceable platform for Riley's political screeds and down-to-earth tales of poverty and struggle. Party Music is their most recent and musically their most developed work. The Coup works with a live band and lacks the more synthetic angle most hip hop outfits cling to, favoring a dense organic sound that moves and shakes rather than bone-dry beats and pulsating synthesizer. The music breathes, joyously alive, calling out for dance and when fused with the radical rhymes, praxis. Riley's delivery is cocksure and strong, clear and powerfully enunciated, and only occasionally falters with the flow. His lyrics run the gamut, from angry to vindictive and from defiance to celebration. The politics are complex and progressive, but Riley doesn't pander to liberal notions of progress within the framework of capitalist and nominally democratic institutions.

The Coup is about transgression, about bucking the system, and their language is subversive and challenging, usually direct but frequently satirical. The hilarious "Lazy Muthfucka", for example, turns the (still prevalent) myth of the lazy black worker on its head, concluding that, "all these multi-millionaires is lazy muthafuckas". Calls for immediate revolution are frequent and sometimes overwrought: Dead Prez's appearance on "Get Up" grabs the listener with its venom but tends to drift into sensationalist territory better suited to, well, a Dead Prez album. But it's not all caustic. There are ballads about family and female empowerment ("Wear Clean Draws") and fist raising anthems for immediate action ("Ride the Fence"). Poverty and racism are attacked head-on, but not merely in terms of white attitudes. Riley sees a larger more sinister cage, an economic system that crosses borders and imposes itself on the oppressed across the board. There are as many references to the developing world and global capital as there are to symptomatic problems in the American inner city.

Marxism and Feminism rarely make inroads into the often materialistic and misogynistic world of rap, but here they are completely intertwined in the fabric of the music. It's not that they're simply reiterated; they're integrated into a street-level narrative that suggests that they have truth-value; they exist as common sense reactions to the despair shared by the have-nots of the world. What can one do to change seemingly hopeless conditions but fight? Seminal socio-political rappers Public Enemy walked a similar path but were always more pompous and afro-centric to the point of fundamentalism. The Coup makes the struggle universal, the treatment of African Americans symptomatic of the problems the whole world faces. And their message soars on a wave of celebratory dance music, adhering to the great tradition of funk. Party Music is definitely recommended.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2003

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