The Coup: Taking On Busters, White Privilege, and Capitalism Since 1992

I was recently listening to a song by The Coup in my car and it really made me appreciate their lyrical and musical styles as well as their mature analysis of race and class in society (but without it affecting their lyrics and beat, they have great lyrics that one can listen too and that are catchy while at the same time being informative) which is what other rap groups tend to lack, such as dead prez or Immortal Technique. Now I like dead prez, they have good analysis on racial relations and are great in propagating Black power, but when they tend to say things such as “All these politicians can bite this dick,” and “Lick these Black balls,” they tend to detract from revolutionary and radical analysis and tend to be more heterosexists and misogynistic. As for Immortal Technique, I’m not a fan of him like I’m a fan of dead prez. Immortal Technique is essentially saying good stuff but at the sacrifice of his music, I remember one song in Revolutionary Vol. 1 where he basically just talks, that’s it. He’s also very infintile in his lyrics, and is extremely sexist towards women and has a weird trip about vegans for some reason. But that’s besides the point, I think dead prez is good (Immortal Technique not so much) but I think The Coup has more mature analysis and better lyrics, enough said on that.

The song I was listening too was “Busterismology” from their 1998 album, Steal This Album. The chorus goes “When we start the revolution/all they probably do is snitch.” I think what he’s essentially referring to is those of the petty bourgeoisie, which is essentially a class in capitalist society that is apart of the proletarian (or working classes) but also are able to have the means to accrue capital off the back of the working class, such as being managers in businesses or owning small businesses (when I say this though I don’t mean to belittle people who own small businesses). So while they get exploited by the bourgeoisie and the capitalist class they are able to acquire enough money in order to live a comfortable middle class life. Boots (the vocalist of The Coup) might also be referring to those in the community that are agents of the government (such as snicthes, etc.) but I’m pretty sure he means the petty bourgeois, regardless (I know, I’m digressing again). In the song he goes onto say (rap):
These teeny-boppers ain’t gon’ live to be a grown up
If we gon’ do this, we could do this, but I’m trippin off,
the factor that these bastards put me through this
The level of my life should be higher
You got a gat, I got a gat...
When we start the revolution,
all they probably do is snitch.
Boot’s is essentially showing us the situation that many people of color live in everyday and how many youth end up dying before they even get out of their teenage years. My girlfriend, Christine Joy Ferrer (who’s a journalism major), did a piece that will appear on City Voices and Youth Outlook on a young man named Terry Rollins who lives in the Sunnydale projects in Visitacion Valley in San Francisco. Rollins told her that he has known over 15 people who have died while being gunned down due to gang violence. Boots wants the level of life for people of color to be higher and in order to do that he states their needs to be revolution. Yet many people, he laments, will probably undermine the revolution, or at least undermine attempts to help make society equal.
I used to work at Mickey D’s,
And to my old buster-ass manager, licky Deez,
Had me workin on my hands and knees, scrubbin grease,
And in the summer with the oven on, it’s hundred-ten degreees,
I asked him why I couldn’t get mo’ hours,
He said it must because I lacked the mental powers,
If I was smart then I would be in his position.
This tends to be classic contemporary racist argument. Since society is supposed to be equal, than people who do not live comfortable middle or upper-class lifestyles must be stupid, which means that it’s their own damn fault for being poor. The Bell Curve is a classic example of this type of thinking, only it is more disguised so that they won’t be accused of being racist. What The Bell Curve argued was that Blacks and Latinos have naturally smaller IQs than whites and Asians, so we should stop helping them because it’s useless (it’s important to note that this book came out in 1994, and was a best seller!). So while a top manager at McDonald’s might not be rich enough to be apart of the bourgeoisie she or he is still comfortable enough in living that she or he would not want to see any major changes in the structures of society.

Boots in this song goes on to attack celebrities (I think in this context he mostly means Black rappers) and others in the petty bourgeoisie:
Now hella my folks got respect for you, killa,
Wit a raised Black fist, and a pocket full of scrilla
Punk asses like you is just here for confucsion,
Be abusin rhetoric, and it’s slightly amusin,
You be cruisin all the networks, Ebony and Jet works,
‘long witcha efforts, now what’s yo net worth?
If you ain’t talkin bout endin exploitation,
Then you just another Sambo in syndication,
Always sayin words that’s gon’ bring about elation,
Never doin shit, that’s gon’ bring us vindication,
And while we gettin strangled by the slave-wage grippers,
You wanna do the same, and say we should put you in business?
So you’ll be next to the rulin’ class, lyin in a ditch,
Cause when we start this revolution,
all you probably do is snitch!
While I can’t speak for the people Boots is rapping about, I know many white liberals who hold very liberal views on society (since I do work in Marin County, a very liberal county in the U.S.) and on issues such as the Iraq War and tax cuts. Yet while many of them “sayin words that’s gon’ bring about elation” to many liberals, and speeches that sound good, many of these same white liberals tend to hold very negative views of poor people of color. I use the term “poor” because many of these same white liberals may have friends who are Black, Latino, or Asian and yet they hold contemporary racist views. Such as that many Blacks are poor because of their “culture” which is mostly focused on that “violent rap” and “gang banging.” This is ignoring the issue at hand, not only is this a racist argument (especially the comment on culture), but it alleviates the guilt many whites have (or might have) over the plight of many people of color in the United States. They don’t actively fight the system to help out people of color (by “help out” I don’t mean it in the sense that people of color can’t help themselves and need whites to help them [that would be a very contemporary racist argument], by “help out” I mean actively participating in actions to fight against racist policies and listening to the grievances of people of color instead of writing it off as “just being excuses” or that they are “just too sensitive).

On the same album in the opening song, “The Shipment,” Boots states:
It ain’t Indonesia, China White,
Purple-Haired Thai, Big H Delight,
Take my shit we gon’ have to fight,
I’m always rollin’ dirty so be actin’ right
I accuse you of nigga-hating!
And exploitating for profit,
Don’t cop a plea,
Cause I’m B-double-O-T,
From the C-O-U the P
Aspired to be famous, puttin fire in their anus,
Made the rulin’ class hate us more than child support payments,
And I slang rocks - but Palestinian style,
Now what you make is point-oh-one percent of what the boss make,
And what the boss make is keepin’ us from livin’ great
Don’t get frustrated, discombobulated,
Don’t stand and debate it,
get a mob and take it!
Boots is stating that their needs to be change, massive change, in this society that is built upon class exploitation and white privilege. He implores people to act and not to drown their sorrows in China White and Big H Delight. Instead of getting down about certain inequalities in society he tells us to take action, analyze, mobilize, and to take what is rightfully yours. Much of the reason why so many majority Black communities live in poverty is because of past exploitation, and yet despite the fact that it was in the past white continue to live off of this privilege and people of color continue to be exploited. Racism didn’t disappear with the Civil Rights Act, all it did was evolve. Yet as people of color continue to fight for their rights and to attain a better standard of life and hope for a better future, Boots states:
Til then it’s food stamps, vouchers, mildew-smellin couches,
Overturned garbage cans wit’ no Oscar the Grouches,
Makin’ money selling plastic pouches
Of course, all of this commentary is from only two songs and from one album, The Coup have many more. I would like to end this blog with a lyric from their newest album, Party Music, that came out in 2001, from the song, Heven Tonite:
I got faith in the people and they power to fight,
We gon make the struggle blossom,
Like a flower to light,
I know that we could take power tonight,
Make 'em cower from might,
And get emergency clearance from the tower for flight,
I ain't sittin in your pews less you helpin' me resist and refuse,
Show me a list of your views,
If you really love me,
Help me tear this muthafucka up,
Consider this my tithe for the offer cup.
Image From:
Hip-Hop Vinyl


Teej said...

Yo man...I love this. The Coup are of my favorite all time!