Artist: The Coup
Album: Pick a Bigger Weapon
Comments: I’m having a really hard time writing this review. Is it because I’m lazy and can’t seem to focus? Is it because I’m not really sure what I think about The Coup’s latest album “Pick a Bigger Weapon”? Or is it because this album is so good that it might change the face of hip hop? Well I know it’s not the last one; Pick a Bigger Weapon is without question a good album, but it’s not revolutionary. And I do know what I think about the album; I think it’s a great hip hop album with some flashes of brilliant production and professional word slinging, with some flat parts that don’t play out to well. I guess I’m just lazy then.
Well, how should I go about writing this then? Well, I guess I could start by saying that The Coup is made up of Boots Riley, the lyricist, and DJ Pam the Funkstress, the producer with a kick ass name. I could go on to say that the band that backs them on the album is extraordinary; it contains some original P-Funk All-stars, not to mention Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine (and sadly, Audioslave). Maybe I should point out that The Coup signed to Epitaph Records for this release, which is a good sign for them seeing as Epitaph is on a hot streak with hip hop acts as of late; just look at Atmosphere and the Danger Doom album. I guess all that star power and hype would have given me pretty big expectations if I had heard of The Coup before this album.
That’s the back story of the album, wonderful. Great. Grand. But what the heck does it sound like? Well, it starts of pretty weak, which is both unusual and unwise. The first track “Bullets and Love” is only about a minute thirty in length, and features some pretty mediocre production and played out gansta lyrics. The second track “We Are The Ones” is longer, but still has uninspired production. As far as the lyrics are concerned, there are some good rhymes and the subject of the song is worthy (struggle of the middle class) but is done in some kind of terrible English accent which is really distracting and annoying.
With two strikes against them already, The Coup launch into “Laugh/Love/F***”, and this is where the album starts to get good. DJ Pam backs the track with what I can only describe as what a Sega Genesis playing 70s soul would sound like. It’s a bit unexpected and a bit weird, but it works in the best way. The track solid lyrical work, but nothing amazing as it lets the beat law down a mellow funk feeling. Very cool. The next track, “My Favorite Mutiny”, features Talib Kweli and Black Thought of the Roots crew, and despite the lyrical powers of the two guests, its Boots who steals the show, rising to the challenge set by the visitors. With the score even two good tracks to two bad tracks, “I Just Wanna Lay Around All Day In Bed With You” tips the album into the land of the good, with Boots serenading his woman over a truly soulful production. Think of it as Barry White with skills.
From there, the album just takes off. The Coup spend the majority of the album from that point using their soapbox to motivate change. “Head(of State)” speaks out against Bush and the US’s history of Iraq, while “AssBreathKillers” speaks about stepping up and speaking out rather than kissing ass of superiors. The production by DJ Pam falls into two categories, the soft and soulful (“ShoYoAss) or the funky fresh (“I Love Boosters!”). Lyrically, Boots never comes down from the bar he set on “My Favorite Mutiny” and is consistent in his message of public awareness and call for changing of crooked politicians and a system that holds down the people within it. His case is strong, but at times is a little bit immature and sophomoric about his need for change. But overall, its strong lyrically.
Well ok, so what do you think of the album as a whole? Well, I think it’s a really good album that trips over itself at first, but then takes off and rarely comes back down. I think DJ Pam’s production is inspired if not always impressive, and when mixed with the backing band, can be downright amazing. I think Boots’s lyrics are sharp and on point for the most part, although at times he can take himself a little to seriously and lacks some sophistication at points. I think the closing track is amazing. I think that The Coup is important for hip hop, that they channel the militant spirit of Public Enemy and soulful flow of Curtis Mayfield, and that feeling of sincerity intimacy that the album gives off is what is missing in hip hop today.
(Whew, hopefully no one realizes that the questioning myself method is just to cover the fact that I’m a terrible writer.)
Final Rating: 8 out of 10
Worth The Money: Yes sir
Key Tracks: “My Favorite Mutiny”, “I Love Boosters!”, “A*sBreathKillers”, “The Stand”