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The Coup: 'Pick a Bigger Weapon'


The Coup is an Oakland rap group known for its revolutionary politics, creative rhymes and bouncy beats. Their new album is called Pick a Bigger Weapon. Our music critic, Christian Hoard, of Rolling Stone magazine, has a review.

Mr. CHRISTIAN HOARD (Music Critic, Rolling Stone): Boots Riley, leader of the underground rap group The Coup, has long been one of the most radical voices in pop music. He rhymed about capitalist pigs and overthrowing the government on records like 1998's Steal this Album and 2001's Party Music, the original cover of which showed Riley and his DJ partner, Pam the Funkstress, blowing up the World Trade Center.

But those albums were as warm and vibrant as they were angry. And so is The Coup's great new album, Pick a Bigger Weapon. Amid spry retro-funk beats, Riley celebrates good times and good women, shows off his sharp sense of humor and his smooth nimble flow, and details the hardships of urban have-nots while railing against everything from over-demanding bosses to the CIA.

(Soundbite of song, We are the Ones)

Mr. HOARD: That track, We are the Ones, is one of several that call for armed revolt against the government. Elsewhere, Riley rants about big companies who use slave labor overseas and he spends much of the album chronicling how the black poor get exploited, dissing the CIA's inauguration of the crack trade and shouting out to those forced to work as janitors or busboys at Shoney's. But besides their perceptiveness and abundance of details, Riley's raps are so engaging because they're as warm and witty as any in hip-hop. Riley encourages brothers and sisters to cut loose in a club, slam the President on a slow jam called Baby, Let's Have a Baby Before Bush do Something Crazy, and tells a poignant tale of a troubled young activist who died after getting liposuction. And on this track, I Love Boosters, Riley rhymes cheerfully about buying shoplifted goods as quote "an apartment that looked like the Macy's sportswear department."

(Soundbite of song, Boosters)

Ms. HOARD: Music on Pick a Bigger Weapon is as dynamic as Riley's rhymes, drawing on George Clinton, blaxploitation film soundtracks and early '80s Prince. My favorite, Mutiny, is full of banging grooves slashed with horn blasts and sole choruses. Head of State is thick with squishy synth funk, and Bullets in Love rides a skittery electro-beat. And amid the slow and sexy bounce of this song, I Just Want to Lay Around All Day in Bed with You, Riley celebrates quiet time with his woman while threatening to rise up against his exploitative boss, reminding us that in The Coup's world, pleasure and politics go hand-in-hand.

(Soundbite of song I Just Want to Lay Around All Day in Bed with You)

BRAND: The album is called Pick a Bigger Weapon by the band The Coup. Our reviewer, Christian Hoard, is a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christian Hoard