The Coup Live: San Francico 12/7/08
A show review of The Coup: "Ijustwannafunkyouwithpoliticsinhand"
Who said politics and music can’t be fun? Often political messages in music sound preachy and are hardly ever danceable—well that’s not the case with The Coup. Tonight at the Fillmore, The Coup is accompanied by soul singer and bass player Meshell Ndegeocello. Signed to Epitah, a punk label, The Coup has always maintained their individuality at the cost of not receiving mass airplay—something I’m sure they’re not concerned with, and why should they be? It’s not an easy task to fill The Fillmore, and on this night they have done just that. It’s a Sunday night, but the dance floor is filled with a crowd sporting anywhere from suits to thick dreads.
Meshell Ndegeocello, singer, songwriter, rapper, and highly acclaimed bassist performed to a silent and attentive crowd. Her voice is deep, and her words come out cavernously. As she sings I am reminded of Thom Yorke or Bjork, grabbing the attention of the crowd with a soft and subtle voice that remains authoritative. In past interviews, she’s described that in production of her albums she’ll write her lyrics and bring them to the band for them to create their own harmonies. In her performance, it shows, as the sound varies from slow haunting songs of passion, to fast moving rhythms full of rock chords.
There aren’t many comparisons to The Coup. Comprised of rapper Boots Riley, Pam The Funktress, and E-roc, their lyrics have several political messages like Dead Prez, but the songs are driven with rock chords like Rage Against the Machine, yet their beats move with funky bass lines and guitar riffs like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Now that’s good company.
As the music industry continues to dilute the content of artists’ music, filling the void with rump shaking beats, and catchy hooks, The Coup remains unfazed. On each album, you get “the usual:” sex, politics and revolution. Not afraid to speak his mind, Boots Riley’s lyrics will get you pumping your fist in support with his lyrics like, “When it’s time to speak up you can’t make a sound/Take the pills that’ll make you kick the king in his crown/Take ass-breath killer, to really get down/Wherever rocks, fire, and struggle are found.” On the same album, Pick A Bigger Weapon, Boots sets the mood for freakin’ with the song “Ijustwannalayaroundalldayinbedwithyou” when he raps, “Yo’ smile just seems so comfortable/Sho’ wish this clock wasn’t functional.”
At first glance when Boots Riley walked onto the stage, he looked like a throwback from the 70s funk era, with his thick sideburns, an afro and wearing a brown leather jacket. It’s not just a look; it’s a presence. As he performs he sways side to side, shuffling his feet like he’s creating his own disco. There is a difference in his performance to his counterparts like Dead Prez, as his show is equally engaging with his lyrics as it is entertaining. By the end of the evening, every member of the five piece band (DJ, bass, electric guitar, piano and drums) had a chance to solo their skills.
DJ Pam the Funktress stole the show when she wowed the crowd with her scratching, using both of her massive breasts to slow and cut the beat—“Look Ma! No Hands!”
Politics don’t have to be that dreaded topic, and artists can choose to sound preachy, just ask The Coup.