December 03, 2021

The Coup - Steal This Album (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDR 4600

© 1998 Dogday/Polemic Records
Steal This Album is the Coup's masterstroke, taking the advances of Genocide & Juice to the next level and coming up with one of the most underappreciated hip-hop albums of the '90s. Down to a duo, the Coup officially becomes a vehicle for Boots Riley's observations, which it mostly was already; still, there's a greater focus simply from the fact that it's a product of one ambitious vision. Boots' impassioned political rhetoric is still in full force, but the main strengths of Steal This Album are its fleshed-out characters and witty, detailed, image-rich storytelling that would do Slick Rick proud. Its intellectual and emotional depth comes from Boots finding the humanity not only in his ideology, but in a much-maligned class of people, articulating their frustrations and analyzing the world they live in from both the inside and outside. His flair for the dramatic reaches its apex on the seven-minute saga "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night." It's a complex, cinematic story about a young man who loathes his father -- an abusive pimp who eventually beats his mother to death -- but can't help internalizing some of the same behavior. Equally touching is "Underdogs," a heartbreaking account of the everyday reality of poverty. Boots' ironic wit is all over the rest of the record. The dark-humored "Breathing Apparatus" finds a gunshot victim with no health insurance pleading with his friend not to let doctors pull the plug. Elsewhere, the previous album's Repo Man returns (in the person of Del tha Funkee Homosapien) on "The Repo Man Sings for You"; and Boots acts out a gleefully provocative fantasy (on record, anyway) with "Piss on Your Grave," which concerns slave owner George Washington. The whole album is strikingly consistent, managing to be smart, funny, touching, and funky all at once; it's nothing short of brilliant.

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tags: the coup, steal this album, 1998, flac,