The Coup: Party Music

Since the release of its 1993 debut Kill My Landlord, The Coup's great gift has been its ability to make Marxism, that least fashionable of ideologies (aside from certain strains of Islamic extremism), seem like the embodiment of common-sense wisdom. Sweetening its rhetoric with irreverent humor, The Coup unabashedly romanticizes society's underdogs and victims, finding pathos, courage, and heroism in the working class' struggle to maintain its dignity and optimism in the face of a system hostile to its well-being. Populist to the core, The Coup subverts hip-hop's materialistic streak by casting the poor as its heroes and the money-chasing big willies as its villains. Picking up where 1998's superb Steal This Album left off, Party Music is The Coup's warmest and most organic effort to date, both lyrically and musically. As song titles like "5,000,000 Ways To Kill A CEO" and "Lazy Motherfuckers" attest, frontman Boots Riley has lost little of his righteous anger or indignation. But alongside P-Funk-fueled workouts like "Pork And Beef" are a handful of intimate, soulful tracks that deftly intertwine the personal with the political. A more overtly political, feminist descendant of Lauryn Hill's "To Zion," "Wear Clean Draws" finds Riley lovingly dispensing advice to his young daughter. "Ghetto Manifesto," meanwhile, follows in the footsteps of Steal This Album's "Underdogs" in its vivid, compassionate depiction of a working class united in its suffering but alienated by the strictures of modern-day capitalism. No track on Party Music illustrates The Coup's extraordinary qualities better than "Nowalaters," which packs much of the same literary wallop as Steal This Album's "Me And Jesus The Pimp In A '79 Grenada Last Night." The song depicts a familiar scenario in which a rapper is manipulated by a woman who facetiously claims she's carrying his child. But rather than responding with anger and hostility when he learns that he's not the baby's real father, Riley reacts with a heartbreaking mixture of sadness, regret, and compassion. In the hands of another rapper, such a moment might come across as smarmy or self-righteous. Here, the song resonates with the pathos and vulnerability of an artist intent on seeing the humanity in the downtrodden, even under the bleakest of circumstances.

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