The Coup is a political hip hop group based in Oakland, California. It formed as a three-member group in 1992 with emcees Raymond "Boots" Riley and E-Roc along with DJ Pam the Funkstress. E-Roc left on amicable terms after the group's second album but appears on the track "Breathing Apparatus" on The Coup's third album, Steal This Album. The group is now a duo.
The Coup, part of the sub-genre of political hip hop, is politically Marxist in its music and aligns itself with other radical hip-hop groups such as Dead Prez. The group's music is characterized by electronic sounds and bass-driven backbeats overlaid by humorous, cynical and sometimes violent lyrics criticizing capitalism, American politics, patriarchal exploitation, and police brutality, among other things.
The Coup's debut album was 1993's Kill My Landlord. In 1994, the group released its second album, Genocide and Juice. After a four-year recording hiatus, the group released the critically acclaimed Steal This Album in 1998, the title of which was reminiscent of yippie Abbie Hoffman's Steal this Book. The album featured the stand-out single "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night." The online magazine Dusted called Steal This Album "the best hip-hop album of the 1990s".
In 2001, The Coup released Party Music to widespread praise. However, in part because of distribution problems, sales of the album were low. The original album cover art depicted group members Pam the Funkstress and Riley standing in front of the twin towers of the World Trade Center as they are destroyed by huge explosions, and Riley is pushing the button on a guitar tuner. The cover art was finished in June 2001 and the album was scheduled to be released in mid-September. However, in response to the uncanny similarity of the artwork with the September 11, 2001, attacks, the album release was held back until alternative cover art could be prepared.
The attention generated concerning the album's cover art precipitated some criticism of the group's lyrical content as well, particularly the Party Music track "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO." The song's lyrics includes lines such as "You could throw a twenty in a vat of hot oil/When he jump in after it, watch him boil." Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin cited the song in calling the Coup's work a "stomach-turning example of anti-Americanism disguised as highbrow intellectual expression."
On 15 November 2005, Tarus Jackson (AKA Terrance), who had joined the group as a promoter, was fatally shot during a robbery at his home in Oakland.
December 2006 saw another tragedy for the Coup: About two hours following a performance at the San Diego House of Blues, the tour bus in which the group was riding drove off the road and flipped over before becoming engulfed in flames. All passengers managed to climb out alive, although some were badly injured. The group did, however, lose all of its clothes, computers, cash, identification, house/car keys, cell phones, all of its instruments, and sound equipment. Since an insurance settlement was a long time coming, the group was forced to cancel the rest of its tour.
The group's songs "My Favorite Mutiny" and "Pork & Beef" were featured in the 2007 film Superbad, with the former also being featured in the video game NBA Live 07, while "Ride the Fence" was featured in EA's 2007 skateboarding video game Skate. The song "Captain Sterling's Little Problem" accompanied the closing credits of Sir, No, Sir, a documentary about the GI anti-war movement.
Boots has confirmed that The Coup's sixth album, a concept album entitled Sorry to Bother You, will be released in late 2011 or early 2012. The album will double as the soundtrack to an independent feature film of the same title, written by and starring Boots, which will be "a dark comedy with magical realism" and will draw inspiration from his time spent working as a telemarketer. An additional EP may be released as early as September.
n 1991, he and other artists founded the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective, a group set up to use the power of hip hop music to publicize other efforts and movements. The next year, Riley founded The Coup.
In July 2002, Riley was a guest on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect and repeatedly referred to himself as a communist. Maher criticized him by saying that communists don't sell records.
Riley was charged with abusive language for allegedly using profanity on stage while performing with the band Galactic in Downtown Norfolk, Virginia, in the city's annual Bayou Boogaloo Festival at Town Point Park in June 2008. This was a result of controversy that started a few weeks prior in the same park when, at a different festival, singer Ray-J used inappropriate language. Riley's charge only carried a small fine. However, the American Civil Liberties Union decided to help him fight it on free speech grounds before the charge was ultimately dismissed by the city shortly thereafter.
During Tom Morello's Fall 2008 tour as the Nightwatchman, Riley appeared on selected dates, and the two debuted a song from an upcoming project called Street Sweeper Social Club. In March 2009, a Web site appeared at the url streetsweepermusic.com, which debuted its first single "Fight! Smash! Win!" It was also announced that the band would be the opening act on the upcoming tour with Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction.
Raymond "Boots" Riley is also an active political/social organizer and speaker. He has been know to work with eviltwinbooking.org and speakoutnow.org, among other groups.
Pam the Funkstress was a student of the late DJ Prince of Charm. In addition to DJing, she owns and operates a successful catering business in Northern California. Pam does not tour with the Coup. Instead, Boots performs with a three-man band.