This past Saturday night I had the unique opportunity to be in Seattle for a conference on the same night as one of my favorite hip-hop groups. The Coup, currently composed of enigmatic front man Boots Riley and female rap staple Silk-E, is an Oakland based act known for their evocative lyrics and funky stylings. Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin once referred to the song “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” as a “stomach churning example of anti-Americanism disguised as highbrow intellectual expression”. And with lyrics like “they may be fucking lady liberty under her dress/and since I didn’t say this under my breath I may be under arrest”, The Coup is almost certainly producing some of the most evocative and thought-provoking hip hop out there. So as I arrived at The Crocodile (the venue the show took place at) on Saturday night and sipped a plastic glass filled with Murray’s beer, I knew I was in for one hell of a show.
First, the openers Hi Life, Kev Choice, and Kung Fu Grip set the tone through a mix of straight-up gangster lyrics, funky beats and classical piano riffs. This was combined with a Malcolm X-esque wardrobe that made it clear from the beginning that these boys weren’t your run-of-the-mill rap acts. Somewhere in a sea of Anarchists and rap aficionados the beats got progressively more funky, and I got progressively more inebriated. Through a hail of guitar riffs the Coup hit the stage.
As a fan of the group for the last few years let’s say I was a little more than ecstatic to hear some of the Coup’s classics like “My Favorite Mutiny”, “Ass-Breath Killers”, and of course “Me and Jesus the Pimp in a ’79 Grenada Last Night”. The group did a very excellent job of mixing everyone’s old favorites with a few sweet tracks from their latest album “Sorry to Bother You” including “The Guillotine” and “Magic Clap”. This was far from surprising to me, as I expected nothing short of a spectacular show. What was most evident was the unique qualities that frontman Boots Riley and lead female vocalist Silk-E brought to the performance. Silk-E’s vocals boomed out over the audience, underscoring the powerful guitar chords with an almost Diva-like quality so rare in modern hip-hop. Boots was an incredible showman, working in a mixture of The Temptations and Chuck Berry into his movements across the stage. The commanding performance came to a high point for me when Boots stopped between songs to let the audience know how they could get involved with a demonstration that was supposed to take place the next day. When an audience member stated that the best way to get informed was just to Google it, Boots made note of the irony of depending on a massive corporation like Google to get informed about demonstrations. Boot’s statement was political, insightful, and defiant just like the music that The Coup produces.
In all, The Coup is certainly one of the most prescient voices in hip-hop today. They’re funk/rock base beats and powerful lyrics make them an entertainment force to be reckoned with. In a rap scene where any incoherent Trinidadian pop star can produce something that resembles hip-hop, The Coup are willing to produce songs that deal with wealth inequality, poor education, and how prostitution affects people and communities. Seeing the Coup live was nothing short of an incredible music experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that has the chance to see them live.