PRE ORDER THE NEW ALBUM FROM THE COUP "SORRY TO BOTHER YOU" NOW! Drops 10-30-12!
The Coup took the four years since the last album to further develop the musical soundscape and also diversify the content. The first two albums certainly showed Boots Riley’s talent as a producer, but “Steal This Album” starts to really allow him to delve into his musical side and make use of intricate instrumental layering, resulting in a thick and sonically heavy foundation that is best heard on the proper sound system or some quality headphones. On “Kill My Landlord” you can hear the mixture of his East Coast sample standards, LA production’s musical ear, and something altogether beyond Hip Hop. By the time he produced “Pick A Bigger Weapon” you could easily remove his lyrics and have the backbone for a soul/funk album, a great one at that.
I have to admit, due to my lyric based ear, the layered production may have hindered me from appreciating “Steal This Album” to the fullest. I say that because listening to this album for the first time in many years I find myself really liking a lot of tracks that I previously didn’t pay much attention to. I also suppose another part of the issue might be that very early on the album there is easily what is among one of the best written songs in Hip Hop, “Me And Jesus The Pimp In A ’79 Granada Last Night”. Having it early on the album sort of set a precedent that was unlikely to be matched, much less top. Truth be told, that shouldn’t be expected because it is just THAT good, but the brain can’t help itself. You get put into a zone like that and it’s all too noticeable when you get out.
However, there is definitely additional great songwriting and lyricism to be found elsewhere on the album. The second verse of “Busterismology” outlines the best fast food job verse scenario since Hard Knocks “Young Black Male”. Boots reveals an alternate downside to punching your boss in the face, that is, besides losing your job or possibly being arrested. Another testament to his skill, to not only think outside of it, but also think of the missing details left inside of the box.
Although the subject matter of The Coup is primarily serious and thought provoking, Boots Riley also has a quite the humorous streak. It’s slightly touched o this with the first two records, but fully realized it on the third. “Cars & Shoes” proves he doesn’t take himself too seriously as he pokes fun of his car that has its share of issues, “Now if you’re getting in my car don’t sit down right away/Because the passenger seat tilts sideways…”, and that’s not even the worse of its troubles. On “Sneakin’ In” he reveals his skills of getting in free, complete with multiple techniques for most any situation. Boots is joined by Del on “The Repo Man Sings For You”, making for a choice combo as they create an anthem for moments of repossession to help lighten the mood…though I imagine that won’t really help much, though the song is fun regardless. This is Part Two in the saga that he laid the framework for in the previously released, directly titled, “Repo Man”.
“Underdog” is one of the great songs I had looked over previously. It is a bit unassuming with his relaxed voice, the minimal beat, and somber mood. He speaks directly to the people who are struggling day by day, assesses their situations and offers words of encouragement. The weight of the topic is accented with one powerful line, “Homes with no heat stiffen your joints with arthritis/If this was fiction it’d be easier to write this.”
“Party Music” came three years later in 2001. The more sophisticated production was noticeable immediately on the lead single, “5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO”. Boots was pulling zero punches vocally either, with the song title or the accompanying lyrics. On the last album he best illustrated his serious side and his funny side on different tracks, on “Party Music” he is very successful at mixing these attributes on the same song(s). This is evident in the aforementioned first single and the album closer “Lazymuthafu**a”.
“Wear Clean Draws” is a dedication and words of wisdom for his young daughter, “You know you’re my cookie baby and you’re too smart/I can see it in the lines of your school art/True heart, I mean courage, expressed with care/Go on, draw them superheroes with curly hair/You’re my daughter, my love, more than kin to me/This is for you and the woman that you finna be/Tell that boy he’s wrong, girls are strong/Next time at show and tell, play him our song/Tell your teacher I said, ‘princesses are evil’/How they got all they money was they killed people/If somebody hits you, hit em back/Then negotiate a peace contract/Life is a challenge and you gotta team up/If you play house, pretend that the man clean up.” To reinforce the message later in the song he informs her, “but as a woman, gotta know your place…/That’s in the front baby…” Beautiful.
One of the finest written songs on the album is the laid back “Ghetto Manifesto” which opens with, “I write my lyrics on parking tickets and summons to the court/I scribbled this on an application for country support.” Overall, the song is well written with great wordplay and skin tight rhyme schemes. Other highlight quotes include: “We payin’ rent on s**t they ain’t even supposed to own” and “Drop a jewel and make the ground crack, even renown hack historians have found that/the people only bound back/when they pound back.” Yet, the most powerful moment comes near the end of track, directly before he advises the people in the struggle to ”Get high from the income angle”, he offers, “The trees we got lifted from made our feet dangle/so when I say blaze one I mean the star spangled…”
“Ride The Fence” makes clever use of the prefixes “Anti” and “Pro”, allowing Boots to clearly define his beliefs, politics, and general dislikes, as the chorus lead-in suggests, “Take a look around and be for or against/Cause you can’t do s**t if you riding the fence.”
The last album by The Coup was “Pick A Bigger Weapon” in 2006. Once again, Boots shows an evolution in musicality and vocal approach. He also successfully continues his melding of his various styles. “We Are The Ones” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, but it might get overlooked or not taken seriously due to his use of a Dracula-like voice in his delivery. Me, I kinda like it (Black Sheep skit voice). It deals with the great lengths that some opt to go to in order to not “sleep in the park in the fetal position.” He finishes the song with words of eventual progress, “We are the have-nots, but we’re also the gon-gets/Not just talkin’ bout the lex with chrome kits/You could get that by yourself with a fo-fifth/Let’s all own s**t then toast with patron hits.”
This segue ways perfectly into “Laugh/Love/F**k”. Boots first touched on relationships with “Nowalaters”. it’s a topic he covers a few more times on this album, each with a different twist. The hook to the first of those tracks goes, "I’m here to laugh, love, f**k and drink liquor/And help the damn revolution come quicker”, it touches on both sides of the topic, but is probably the most directly political of the three.
“BabyLet’sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomthin’Crazy” is a straight up love ballad, stressing the urgency of acting on your passions before political chaos wipes out society. It’s sexy, tongue-in-cheek, and Rap free. This one is written by Boots Riley, but sung by Silk E. Showing his skills as a songwriter on a different level.
“IJustWannaLayAroundAllDayInBedWithYou” is more love ballad with a political tie-in, invoking the sounds of Bootsy Collins and Prince. The scene opens with, “Monday rush, I’m s’posed to skip/But I just found Sunday in your hips.” Later in the verse he introduces the challenge to this situation, “And yo(ur're) smile just seems so comfortable/Sho’ wish this clock wasn’t functional/’sposed to punctual, not keep the boss waitin’/but the sheet’s sweating and the ceilin’ is pulsatin.” After a few minutes of professed passion entangled with job site woes it all comes to a close with a purposefully corny, as well as awkward, politically perverted joke about George W Bush and Sadam Hussien.
The additional punchline to that joke can be found in the next song’s title, “Head (Of State)”, as well as the hook. The track explores some history of the US dealings with Iran for oil, which anyone who pays attention to the world in the last 30 years or so knows that’s an ever-amassing mess.
Other key tracks include, “Captain Sterling’s Little Problem”, “I Love Boosters” and “The Stand”. Ultimately, “Pick A Bigger Weapon” is a great album that I don’t think enough people have heard and appreciated…much like all of The Coup albums. I particularly feel as if those who consider themselves having a ear for lyrics are the ones missing out here.
The Coup’s six album, “Sorry To Bother You” drops on 10.30.12. The album’s title is given full definition with another excellently portrayed album cover. I haven’t heard anything from this album yet, but I await with intrigue. I might even be a little more excited for the Boots Riley book, “Lyrics In Context”, which drops just a few weeks later on 11.13.12. I expect both will further define Boots Riley as a mastermind both lyrically and musically.
In closing, fans of The Coup might note that I left out discussing some of the best songs on each of these albums, “Me And Jesus The Pimp”, “Heven Tonite”, and “MindF**k”. These will each be focus tracks, along with "Not Yet Free" and "Fat Cats Bigga Fish" on Mic Math Mondays tonight at 6 PM Central USA Time. This open to the public, come drop your thoughts on these lyrical discussions!!
Written By Kevin Beacham
-Editor's Note: I'd also like to add extra props The Coup for always keeping the DJ relevant in their music. Pam The Funkstress has represented on every album, including solo tracks on many of the albums!
-Mic Math Monday Focus Tracks:
“Not Yet Free” (from “Kill My Landlord” 1993)
“Fat Cats, Bigga Fish” (from “Genocide and Juice” 1994)
“Me And Jesus The Pimp…” (from “Steal This Album” 1998)
“Heven Tonite” (from “Party Music” 2001)
"MindF**K" (From "Pick A Bigger Weapon 2006)
-Other Recommended Listens:
1)“Kill My Landlord” album: “Dig It”, “I Ain’t The Ni**a”, “Last Blunt”, “Kill My Landlord”, “F**k A Perm” 12” Extended Version
2)“Genocide and Juice”: “Pimps”, “Takin’ These “ Remix, “Hip 2 Tha Scheme”
3)“Steal This Album”: “Busterismology, “Cars & Shoes”, “Sneakin’ In”, "Underdog"
4)“Party Music”: “Ride The Fence”, “Ghetto Manifesto”, "Wear Clean Draws", “5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO”, “Lazymuthaf**ka”
5)“Pick A Bigger Weapon”: “We Are The Ones”, “Captain Sterling’s Little Problem”, “The Stand”, “IJustWannaLayAroundAllDayInBedWithYou”