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Antithugs

THE COUPParty Music (75 Ark)

With their community politics and anti-authoritarian attitude, The Coup can seem as anachronistic as Boots‘ signature Afro. But they only seem out of step because hip-hop has gotten out of touch with reality. In a climate where the music’s apolitical stupor makes it incapable of dealing with national crisis, The Coup‘s Party Music is a stark and welcome exception.

The Coup embrace Funkadelic’s call to free yo minds and asses, and the duo of Boots and DJ Pam the Funkstress rarely descend into the kind of rote didacticism that‘s plagued other political rappers. While the album has its share of unabashed agitprop -- such as the anti-corporate ”5 Million Ways To Kill a CEO“ and the anti-police ”Pork and Beef“ -- Boots doesn’t rap to the people, he raps from them, and this black-working-class perspective is far more meaningful than rap‘s more popular thugged-out fantasies. On Party Music, The Coup submerge their message deep into the music, which takes on a blend of squiggly, Clintonian P-funk and backwater, blues-tinged soul. ”Wear Clean Draws,“ Boots’ ode to his young daughter, holds a hand-me-down sagacity. ”Ghetto Manifesto,“ a scorching call to everyday rebellion, shows off Boots‘ underrated lyrical acumen. And the real standout is ”Nowalaters,“ a short narrative, possibly drawn from Boots’ past, about a teenager he thought was pregnant with his baby. For most rappers, this would be an opportunity to claim victim status and justify misogynistic rants about gold diggers, but Boots handles the topic with self-awareness and insight.

Not as consistent as The Coup‘s outstanding Steal This Album from 1998, Party Music still manages to be one of 2001’s best, all the more important because of its dissenting political voice in a time when cookie-cut complacency masquerades as patriotism. If hip-hop threatens to evaporate into complete irrelevance, Party Music is one of the few anchors the music can count on.