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The Coup Biography

Home > Music > C > Coup, The > Biography

Birth Place: Oakland, California, United States
Years Active: 1991-present
Genres: Hip Hop

The Coup is a political hip hop group based in Oakland, California. It formed as a three-member group in 1990 with emcees Raymond “Boots” Riley, E-Roc and DJ Pam the Funkstress. E-Roc left on amicable terms after the group's second album. The Coup, part of the sub-genre of political hip hop, is politically communist in its music and aligns itself with other radical music groups such as Dead Prez and Rage Against the Machine. The group's music is characterized by aggressive, yet danceable bass-driven backbeats overlaid by humorous, hopeful and sometimes violent lyrics criticizing capitalism, American politics, patriarchal exploitation, and police brutality, among other things.

The Coup's debut release was 1991's “The EP” and almost all of the songs on it were put on the 1993 LP, “Kill My Landlord.” In 1994, the group released its second album, “Genocide & 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.” After the release of “Steal This Album,” The Coup began incorporating the live instrumentation from their recordings into their live show. The Coup has, since that time, been a full band.

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 DJ 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.” In 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, when 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 lost many possessions, including all of its instruments and sound equipment.

The Coup's sixth album, a concept album entitled “Sorry to Bother You,” was released in October 2012. The album doubled as the soundtrack to an independent feature film of the same title, written by and starring Boots, a dark comedy with magical realism.