The Coup were one of the most overtly political bands in rap history. Formed in the early '90s, the Coup were obviously influenced by the black power rhetoric of "conscious" rappers like Public Enemy and KRS-One, but they were perhaps even more inspired by a heavy-duty, leftist reading list that included Marx and Mao. Lead rapper/producer Boots (born Raymond Riley) was involved in political activism long before he was a musician. His fervent dedication to social change, from his work with the Young Comrades through his deep involvement with the Occupy Oakland movement, was the overriding influence on every Coup album.
Second rapper E-Roc and DJ Pam the Funkstress rounded out the band's first lineup. Released in 1993, the Coup's debut album, Kill My Landlord, was a highly charged blend of leftist resistance and '70s funk. If it had been released a mere four or five years earlier, the highly politicized album might have gained the Coup nationwide notoriety and platinum album sales. As it was, gangsta rap was all the rage, and Kill My Landlord achieved only moderate sales but nearly unanimous critical acclaim. A year later, the Coup's follow-up, Genocide & Juice, continued their agenda of sociopolitical insubordination. Not surprisingly, the Coup again received more support from critics than the record-buying public.
The next several years saw the Coup go through career-threatening changes. They ended their association with their label, Wild Pitch, and suspended their activity as a band. With the band dormant, Boots went to work for a shipping company but continued his political activism. Among other endeavors, he headed the Young Comrades, a group of social activists whose activities included storming the Oakland City Council. Boots' rap partner, E-Roc, left the group, and Pam continued her DJing.
In 1998, the Coup -- down to a duo of Boots and Pam -- resurfaced on the Bay Area independent label Dogday. The result was Steal This Album, one of the band's best efforts. The original provocative artwork for Party Music, the Coup's fourth studio effort -- their first and only release for 75 Ark -- drew media attention in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, but it was changed prior to the album's delayed release that November. Pick a Bigger Weapon followed on Epitaph in April 2006; a subsequent tour ended abruptly that December when the band's bus went off a road, rolled over, and caught fire. Several members of the Coup's crew and backing band, along with touring partner Mr. Lif, were injured, but everyone survived. That year, Boots also linked with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello to form Street Sweeper Social Club. The Coup, however, remained active; Sorry to Bother You, loaded with guests including Das Racist, Killer Mike, Vernon Reid, and Joe Henry, was released on Anti- (via Epitaph) in October 2012. ~ Mtume Salaam
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