Ever since Ice Cube stepped down as the west coast’s hip-hop political activist, it seems like there hasn’t been a voice to cry “We are at war,” Sistah Souljah-style, in the place where the sun sets. Although many have chosen to shut it out, there has been a little voice in the corner that keeps getting louder with the release of each consecutive album. That voice is of The Coup, the Bay Area duo of Boots, an emcee whose flow is as wild as his ‘fro, and DJ and co-producer Pam The Funkstress. Not to forget the live band that backs up The Coup, delivering organic, fonky-ass beats for Boots and Pam to rock over.
I must admit, at one point, I was a part of the guilty masses who chose to sleep on the crew’s last two projects. While I always liked their singles, at a younger age, maybe I wasn’t ready for the strong political messages they were sending (yet, I still rocked Public Enemy and The Goats ?) Or maybe it was the fact that I could never find their albums in stores, due to poor independent distribution. Whatever the case may be, now, as maturity has set in, it almost seems essential to go back and research the group’s earlier works, for Steal This Album is a lyrical and musical masterpiece. Full of beautiful production from the back-up band, and sarcastic, conceptual songs, each sending out the message that something isn’t quite right with the way life is in the ghetto.
Lyrically, Boots speaks with a west coast twang, exploring a wide variety of topics, from the strong political messages sent to the favored rich folk on tracks like “20,000 Gun Salute” (this slug’s for Newt!) to the simpler, more humorus side shown on “Cars and Shoes”, a hilarious contender for the most ghetto fabulous song of the year. Most of the album’s tracks revolve around the life of Boots, working at McMinimun Wage Hell, and trying to avoid the trials and tribulations attached to everyday ghetto livin’, – besides the obvious and overdone gang and drug wars. “Breathing Apparatus” seems to be the only song touching upon thug life, yet the aim of the song isn’t to glorify the lifestyle, (as it takes place after the drama), but rather to show the health field’s blatant disregard for the lives of those without medical insurance. “The Repo Man Sings For You” (starring Del The Funkee Homosapien) pits Boots against the Repo Man in a lyrical argument over furniture, while “Sneakin’ In” is a brilliant, Pharcyde-like, throwback to the crumbsnatchin’ days of youth, sneaking in to everything from the movies to the Summer Jam. Perhaps the album’s most powerful song, lyrically and sonically, is “Me and Jesus The Pimp In a ’79 Granada Last Night,” an autobiographical (?) tale about a boy who’s mother was killed by her pimp, which turns out to be his father.
Musically, the crew borrows styles from many different genres, with plenty of influence from funk pioneers like Bootsy Collins, (probably where Boots dervies his name from), all the way to wigged out, classic rock sounds with a soulful twist, explored on tracks like “Fixation.” With so many other groups exploring the fusion of hip-hop with live instrumentation, The Coup also shines among them, churning out a slew of non-repetitive, musical backdrops, that keep the listener’s interest throughout.
With so many messages buried underneath the band’s expressions, it’s obvious that Boots isn’t using hip-hop just to get paid, but instead to use it as a way to relay important messages that need to be heard. Even the LP’s title suggest’s “stealing this album”, making it clear that Boots wants his words to be heard, even if it means giving the sh*t away. As an audience, let’s do everyone a favor and support The Coup, so Boots doesn’t have to get another visit from the repo-man, eh?
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