Friday, November 24, 2006

Rebel WIthout A Pause

The Coup
"Pick A Bigger Weapon"
ShoYoAss/Anti-/Epitaph, 2006

For Fans Of: Public Enemy, RATM, BDP, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Outkast, Roots, Jello Biafra

This Bay Area hip-hop group have been doing their Commie-rap thing for over a decade. Where other rappers rhyme about grills and killing rivals, the Coup rap about overthrowing the boss and starting revolution. While other Yay Area crews are all about getting stupid, thizz face, and ghost riding whips, the Coup stay far away from Hyphy, and concentrate their energy on trying to raise consciousness and get the proletariate angry.

In theory, this should be my favorite album ever. I miss the days when artists like PE and Ice Cube instilled hip-hop with righteous anger. It's disappointing that so many artists are so self-centered, materialistic, and focused on perpetuating shitty lifestyles. It's sad to me that Fifty Cent is the hero of choice for today's youth, and that hip-hop came to be a means of bragging about dealing drugs rather than escaping from being a dealer.
In practice, the Coup suffer from the two weaknesses intrinsic to message-oriented music: It sacrifices the music for the message, and it is too didactic and self-righteous.

The basic template of the Coup is slightly preachy revolutionary lyrics over Bay Area funk. While sometimes the lyrics are on, more often than not they are clumsy and simplistic. It reminds of Christian music that tries unsuccessfully to hippify its Jesus-talk. Lines like "I'm here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor/And help the damn revolution come quicker" don't flow well, and seem like obvious attempts to reach the masses.
Boots' goofy Andre 3000 meets E-40 meets high school teacher flow doesn't help matters much, either. I've never been fan of that type of exaggerated rhyming, and this disc didn't do anything to win me over. It's possible that with a different MC I'd find the Coup more palatable, but I just wasn't feeling Boots.

While in general I agree with their politics, they share Jello Biafra's strain of ultra-left, ultra-paranoid smarmy radicalism, and likewise share Jello's unfortunate tendency of coming off like they know everything and are just trying to let the dumb masses in on it.
"Head (Of State)" tells the story of the Bush family's connection to Saddam Hussein, but its sing-songy storytelling would be better as a column in a zine rather than a hip-hop song. Here's a sample lyric:

"Saddam Husssein was their man out there/ [The C.I.A.] told him to rule by keeping people scared/ Sayin' any opposition to him, he must crush it/ He gassed the kurds/ They gave him the budget."

It's just too….i dunno, simplistic and awkward, I guess. I mean, I think it's awesome that they are pointing out how closely connected the administration was with Saddam, but the delivery does nothing for me. I kept comparing this with David Banner's music - half the time Banner is a sexist, mean bastard, but when he drops science on the state of the bullshit, it's done in a much more convincing manner than the Coup. It's more about him expressing his own anger and frustration over how he is fucked over by the system, rather than trying to educate and raise consciousness.

Maybe I'm just not the right audience for the Coup's message. If I was an angry, confused teenager, this would probably seem a hell of a lot more intense. After all, I used to think Jello Biafra was a political genius. And I think the Coup's slightly awkward but good intentioned music is miles better than all of the guns violence drugs and fucking music that is polluting the airwaves. It's also refreshing to hear rapper talk about uniting the working classes and trying to create a cooperative system where the poor aren't fucked over by the rich, rather than the multitude of rappers bragging about how they want to get rich so they can be the ones fucking people over. I'm glad artists like the Coup exist, and I wish them the best of luck. If you are into BDP, the Roots, or the Outkast, you'll probably dig this album. Personally I'm going to respectfully pass.

-Patrick Sean Taylor

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