Saturday, February 15, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1342: The Coup

I’ve been discovering a lot of great music lately, but more and more I can’t find those albums on CD. It is a dying format, and I’m having a hard time letting go and converting to the sad and sterile land of the download code.

Rap is one of the worst genres for this, as modern rap artists have embraced the digital-only world with enthusiasm. Fortunately, this next album came out during the golden age of the compact disc, and I found it almost immediately.

Disc 1342 is…Kill My Landlord
Artist: The Coup

Year of Release: 1993

What’s up with the Cover? Members of the Coup welcome us into their kitchen. Well, maybe 'welcome' isn't the right word here. Band leader Boots Riley is brandishing a frying pan. Maybe he's just going to cook up some breakfast, but all those angry glares suggest otherwise.

How I Came to Know It: I was reading some music article or other (as I often do) and the Coup song “Magic Clap” got mentioned in a capacity I no longer remember. At the time, however, I was interested enough to check out the song and I liked what I heard.

“Magic Clap” isn’t even on this record, but that’s how it all started. From there I dug through the entire Coup discography with wild abandon. And here we are.

How It Stacks Up: The Coup have six albums and they are all good. Unfortunately, I’ve only managed to find four so far. Of the four I have, “Kill My Landlord” comes in 3rd.

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

“Kill My Landlord” is the first album from the Coup, a very funky, very political rap act from Oakland, California. If you’re wondering if the title of the album is a bit of playful hyperbole the answer is…I hope so. The Coup’s lyrics can be funny, it is also clear they are not joking.

This is music for the revolution. While listening to it did not make me feel particularly revolutionary, I did admire the band’s rap flow. Their rhymes are clever, with thoughtful turns of phrase that drive their points home with a controlled rage.

Along the way they skewer Bill Clinton, George Bush and a host of police departments. They even call out Donald Trump (who back in 1993 was just a famous businessman).

The album song list is set up like a baseball lineup, with the center of the lineup featuring the heaviest hitters. Track four is the title track, and a broad call to revolution followed by a song imagining revenge on a violent cop (“I Know You”), a song exploring the power of language over behavior (“I Ain’t the Nigga”) and finishing up with “Last Blunt” a song about how getting high too often saps you of your will to achieve anything. You definitely won’t care about joining the revolution after too much dope, which for the Coup is a big deal.

The chocolate coating that helps all this go down easier is the incredibly funky beats and bass lines. The Coup doesn’t rely solely on a bunch of snare samples and breaks; they’ve got a full band of their own, with drums, guitars, drums and keyboards. This gives their songs a strong R&B feel and a great organic quality. They also throw in a small amount of jazz, but not so much to detract from the groove or to annoy my anti-jazz sensibilities. There is still lots of scratching and sampling, but it is blended well with the ‘live’ band elements.

It's clear the Coup wants “Kill My Landlord” to generate impassioned political debate and push people to action. I hate to disappoint them, but I’m going to stick to the music. I’m sure there are plenty of other websites out there where you can scratch your political itch.

So, from a musical perspective, does the Coup deliver? This is a damned funky record, and the rhymes are solid, and it makes it easy to enjoy over multiple listens. All that social commentary comes off as a bit strident at times, but I suppose that’s the point.

Best tracks: The Coup, I Know You, I Ain’t the Nigga, Last Blunt, Liberation of Lonzo

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