Beyond the oft-tentative social consciousness of Kanye, Mos Def, The Roots and Common--the cast of Dave Chappelle's Block Party, basically--mainstream hip hop isn't amenable to activism, unless the cause is flagging coke sales or subsidizing a new ice-grill.
Boots Riley, emcee and producer for Oakland's The Coup, makes no bones about his allegiances, and he's been a radical politics activist in the past. But you have to despair for the socialist rapper's chances of widespread success in today's wildly capitalistic rap climate. Now a duo comprised of rapper/producer Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress, The Coup finds itself no more at home amid big-ticket, ad-libbed trap-hop (a The Clipse genre predicated on the notion that rap is just another hustle on par with selling crack) than they were when they emerged into a post-Public-Enemy climate of gangsta nihilism in the early '90s.
Their hybrid of breezy Bay Area funk and limber, erudite rhymes is a melting pot of influences--Karl Marx and George Clinton, KRS-One and Huey Newton, Malcolm X and Prince--and they get the better of preachy downers like Sage Francis by leavening their propaganda with humor and charisma. If Coldplay's not the opposite of Young Jeezy, this definitely is.
The Coup's latest, Pick a Bigger Weapon, finds Riley's arch singsong trundling along a conveyor belt of squiggly, bottom-heavy bump 'n' squelch, setting their shows for a good-time (Communist) Party vibe driven by well-oiled funk and narrative-powered calls to arms.
The Coup plays Local 506 Thursday, June 15. Former The Coup hype man T-K.A.S.H. opens. Also, notoriously reclusive local impresario L in Japanese, opens with Merlin & Savvy getting the party started on the ones and twos. Tickets for the 10 p.m. show are $10-$12.