erasing clouds

The Coup, Party Music

reviewed by Dave Heaton

On Party Music, the Coup use hip-hop rooted in 70s funk and soul to ask the question: are you ready to start a revolution?

As the titles of their three previous albums--Kill the Landlord, Genocide and Juice and Steal Thjs Album--indicate, The Coup have progressive social change on their mind. Boots, the duo's MC (the other member is Pam the Funkstress, an amazing DJ), is perhaps the most articulate social critic in music today, an heir to every freedom fighter every to use an instrument or voice to make audiences think and motivate them to act. On Party Music, Boots' critique mostly centers on economic justice; he's anti-capitalist and proud of it, hoping for a day when the gap between the rich and the poor will be a nonissue, when everyone will have opportunity and comfort, regardless of the financial situation he or she was born into. That hope is expressed in songs that take on corporate America ("5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO"), that point fingers at wealthy Americans who don't care about the poor ("Lazymuthafucka"), and, most importantly, that look to everyday people for help in shaking the country up ("Everythang," "Get Up," "Ride the Fence").

While economic injustice is at the core of everything they do, The Coup also take on plenty of other issues important in society today. "Wear Clean Draws" has Boots instilling feminist attitudes in his daughter, "Pork and Beef" takes on police brutality and puts it in a bigger context, and "Nowalaters is a more introspective track dealing with teen pregnancy. On each track, Boots has a sly sense of humor, a heartfelt generosity and a refusal to mince words at all, making The Coup's songs more than just easily summed up messages. The Coup paint a picture of the U.S. which isn't the prettiest one, but is at the same time filled with beauty in its hopefulness and in its belief in the power of human beings. This isn't a cynical, "the world sucks" critique. The Coup deftly express a faith in human goodness, in our potential to create a society based on altruism and not selfish greed. Above all, the message of Party Music is that we can change things, that people have the power.

From track to track, Boots calls for listeners to do something, to not let those in power dictate the way our society is. That idea is most poignantly delivered in "Heven Tonite," a soulful call for action where Boots responds lets religious leaders know that if they want him to join their church, they better be ready to help make serious social change. He puts it like this: "I got faith in the people and they power to fight we gonna make the stuggle blossom like a flower to light." And then like this: "I ain't sittin in your pews less you helping me resist and refuse/show me a list of your views/if you really love me help me tear this muthafucka up/consider this my tithe for the offer cup." He calls for us to make heaven here on earth, right now, "just in case they wrong." Like the rest of Party Music and, indeed, nearly every track in the Coup's discography, it's one of the most sincere musical calls for action you'll hear.

It might not be hip these days to take a stand--political music's likely to be dismissed as too serious or as "propoganda--but the Coup don't care. They're hip-hop activists trying their best to make the world a better place. The good news is that The Coup have been getting a lot of attention with this album, even from mainstream magazines like Spin (who put Party Music in their top 20 for 2001). When I saw the Coup in concert recently (as part of the Cali-comm tour, a showcase of independent-label hip-hop from California), after their set there was no shortage of young people approaching them for conversations and autographs, even though the crowd for the show was quite small. It's a sign of hope, one more piece of evidence that the cynical news media and politicians are wrong, that idealism and interest in social change are not dead.


Issue 8, January 2002 | next article

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds