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Radical hip-hoppers the Coup dis corporate culture, sweatshops and ghetto chic

By David Espinoza

IT'S OFTEN SAID that there's no such thing as bad publicity: tell that to Gary Condit. Then again, radical hip-hoppers the Coup seem to have survived the fallout from the original cover art to their latest album, Party Music--which depicted two skyscrapers being blown up--just fine. (For the record, the cover art was created before Sept. 11 and subsequently replaced with a martini on fire.) At their show March 8 at the Catalyst, "short-man-with-a-big-fro" lead MC Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress along with their band proved that provocative art isn't necessary to create provocative music. Similar to Bay Area contemporaries Spearhead, the Coup's call for social, cultural and political change is rapped lyrically but backed by live instrumentation. Unlike the busy Latin-jazz-jam-band-funk-feel of Spearhead though, the Coup's music resembles '70s-era disco-funk--a bit cheesy at times, and always sticky. Boots Riley's rhyming is strictly slow-flow old-school style, the stuff you might have heard in 1989 on an after-school special commercial when marketers attempted to be hip with that new "rap" thing. Of course, much of Riley's lyrics include a couple of "mutha-fuckins" in them, so a contract with Sesame Street is most likely out of the question.

Mofo's aside, the method in which Riley drops his lyrics isn't nearly as powerful or important as the content. The music is tight but largely complimentary to what Riley is preaching. From the throbbing P-funk beats of "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO," where Riley sings, "They own sweatshops, pet cops, and fields of cola/murder babies with they molars on the ariola," to the lowrider-styled rant on police brutality, "Pork and Beef," the Coup articulates the growing tide of resentment against a world increasingly under corporate control.

While Riley and crew started off with a very strong set, his band did what they always do: got sloppy when finishing the songs after an hour into the show. It was a real treat though to see former Weapon of Choice frontman/freak Lonnie Marshall taking up the reins on bass. Marshall deserves the honorary Bootsy Collins award for sporting a bright-green shirt and Bozo the Clown hairdo (done naturally thanks to male pattern balding). Unfortunately, Marshall made it all too clear that he was new to the band and contributed to the unraveling of the songs toward the end of the night.

For the encore, the Coup followed the lead of comic-strip artist Aaron McGruder and let commercial black pop culture have it on "Ghetto Manifesto." This was done to the rhythm of Outkast's "So Fresh and So Clean" with co-MC T-Kash flipping on the rapid-fire rhyming switches, unintentionally upstaging Riley. The Coup then closed the night with a condensed version of "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night." I was hoping for "Busterismology" off their last effort, Steal this Album.

And Finally ...

The first issue of 2002 of the audiozine Doris Martini is out now with tunes by Sneaky Creekans, the Flying Baby and two songs from Sin in Space. If you dug the last issues containing mockumentary news, local music and tidbits of randomness, you'll definitely enjoy this one. Sessions Records has a new project out from the band Pop Unknown out of Austin, Tex. Expect a full review next week.

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From the March 13-20, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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