16. Genocide & Juice, The Coup
When Public Enemy fell from grace, a rap group from the other side of the country took up their case. The Coup was the next progression of political rap—when Proposition 21 passed, they drove a flatbed truck around and performed “guerilla hip-hop concerts” to raise awareness and protest the bill. According to Coup frontman Boots Riley, “California is a very racist place.”
Riley, the nucleus of the group as rapper and producer, is a fascinating rap figure unlike most we’ve ever seen. By age 15 he was a member of the Progressive Labor Party, and when he started making music he did so with the goal of buying “guns and ammunition” in order to form “organizing centers” around the country. That would scare the shit out of (white) folks today.
Genocide & Juice is hip-hop theatre. Riley was not only an activist, but also a meticulous artist whose influences range from Prince to The Cure. The opening trio of songs finds Boots infiltrating a high-class party and eventually robbing the white guests, who openly try their hand at rap in a mocking fashion. It’s both literal—the party is exclusive and Boots has to sneak in as a server—and metaphorical—society as a whole has cast blacks out of the party. Since the release of Genocide & Juice, few if any artists have been able to make as focused and funky of a political statement.