The Coup | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Oakland duo who call themselves the Coup have been churning out bouncy, funky, politically charged hip-hop since the early 90s to little notice, but thanks to the intended cover art for their fourth and latest album, Party Music (75 Ark), newshounds the world over know who they are: a doctored photo pictured MC and producer Boots Riley with his finger on the button of a detonator, blowing up the World Trade Center. On September 11, a few weeks before the CD was set to arrive in stores, the label pulled the art, and Riley has subsequently struggled to recontextualize it. But the point he was making was not so dissimilar from the terrorists': the Twin Towers were a symbol of American big business, and he too was fed up with its pervasiveness. On "Ride the Fence" he raps, "Anti-corporate / They anti my essence / Anti snortin' them anti-depressants / But I'm not pro poppin' 'em / I'm proactive / and pro stoppin' them FBI operatives," and in "Pork and Beef" he suggests fighting institutionalized police harassment with Molotov cocktails. Even "Wear Clean Draws," tenderly addressed to his daughter, makes his worldview known loud and clear: "The world ain't no fairy tale / And it's ran by some rich white scary males / To make it simple for you / Let's call 'em the bosses / They take money while the people take the losses." Riley blunts his own effectiveness by getting too reductive here and there, but he offers a powerful alternative to hip-hop's dominant strains of conspicuous consumption and battle rhyming. Riley and his longtime DJ, Pam the Funkstress--who's been known to scratch with body parts her male counterparts don't even have--will be backed by a live funk band. The Coup's originally scheduled Chicago appearance at the Guild Complex in December was canceled; here they open a much bigger show for veteran New York turntablists the X-ecutioners. On their major label debut, Built From Scratch (Loud), the four-man crew muddy their devotion to old school fundamentals with crass crossover tactics, including a cringe-inducing collaboration with Linkin Park and a tired remake of "Genius of Love" complete with propped-up participation from Tom Tom Club and Biz Markie. Still, there's loads of nifty scratching and decent cameos from the likes of M.O.P., Large Professor, and Pharoahe Monch. Friday, April 26, 11 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.

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