Boots Riley and Pam the Funkstress don’t receive the recognition they deserve. For over a decade, the Oakland duo has released four critically acclaimed albums filled with funk, socio-political commentary, and attitude. On their latest effort, The Coup is fresher, angrier and rowdier than ever.
Their fifth release, Pick a Bigger Weapon, is laced with keyboard synths, handclaps, basslines and pure soul. While Boots’ lyrics still reflect a genuine distrust of the government, calling for rebellion and action with almost every line, Pam the Funkstress interjects with cuts and scratches whenever the music allows. Add to the mix verses by Black Thought and Talib Kweli, along with production help from Tommy Morello, Parliament-Funkadelic, Dwayne Wiggins, and the Gap Band, and you have an uncompromising modern rap album. With this dense lineup, it’s indeed no letdown, as Pick a Bigger Weapon is perhaps the duo’s best work to date.
Songs like “Shake Yo Ass” and “My Favorite Mutiny” find the same old Boots, delivering real life raps, not just rhetoric. The production on these songs are up tempo, funk-filled and perfectly compliment Boots’ energetic delivery. On “Laugh/Love/Fuck”, Boots proclaims: “I’m here to laugh, love fuck and drink liquor/and help the damn revolution come quicker” - which, in a sense, sums up Boots’ disposition. Other tracks like “Head (of state)”, “I Love Boosters”, “Tiffany Hall” and “The Stand” are revolutionary anthems, delivered funky party music. From geo-politics to everyday street imagery, Boots doesn’t sermonize or lecture; instead he remains committed to storytelling, with a passion that is very reminiscent of Chuck D on Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet. Whether the songs use intelligent dark humor (BabyLet’sHaveABaby BeforeBushDoesSomethingCrazy), or are blatantly bizarre (Ass-Breath Killers), The Coup perfectly meshes great songwriting with rhythmic production.
Pick A Bigger Weapon does have moments where the songs run a bit long (“Captain Sterling’s Little Problem”) and some verses seem redundant, but overall, the project is lyrically and musically solid. Boots tirelessly calls for action and distrust, in a way that sounds very organic and uncontrived. With the release of Pick a Bigger Weapon, The Coup maintains its position as ready-to-go-revolutionaries, who happen to make intelligent funky ass music.
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