The heyday of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions was over by the time the Coup released their incendiary debut album Kill My Landlord. Gangsta hedonism had replaced black-power politics as the hip-hop menace "du jour", and that's perhaps the only reason this revolution-minded outfit failed to become the controversial boogeymen they seem tailor-made to be. Unabashedly Marxist (the first line on the album is "Presto, read the Communist Manifesto..."), the Coup takes political rap to a whole new level of intelligence, attacking not only racism but also the economic and class factors that keep African-Americans oppressed. Much of Kill My Landlord is fiercely polemical, but to the group's credit, it sounds too invigorating to resemble the hour-long lecture it could easily have been. There's a palpable sense of glee at some of the more transgressive statements: the album-opening one-two punch of "Dig It!" and "Not Yet Free," the pro-L.A. riot "The Coup," the anti-police brutality "I Know You." Kill My Landlord doesn't have as much of the wry humor or storytelling that would enrich later releases, but it is in evidence: "Last Blunt" is told from the perspective of a stoner who wants to quit, but can't face the pressure of a tough everyday life. Lead rapper Boots Riley sprinkles his rhetoric with clever wordplay, declaiming in a deadpan baritone that resembles an eerily calm Chuck D. He's supported by a bed of thick, loping Oakland funk that blends vintage soul samples (courtesy of DJ Pam the Funkstress) with live instrumentation. Parts of the album are somewhat underdeveloped musically (especially over the second half), which means that it isn't quite as consistent as its successors. But the high points are brilliant, making Kill My Landlord well worth the hunt for Coup fans.
Steve Huey, Rovi