The Coup's apex was 1994's sophomore LP, Genocide & Juice, which showcased lead MC and artistic force Boots Riley's enormous talent for allegory and humor. Its most powerful tracks, "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish" and "Pimps (Live at the Fortune 500)," were both hilarious and poignant, telling the sad tale of America's hidden class polarization. The latter song was a double-edged parody, casting Boots and former straight man E-Roc in the roles of David Rockefeller and John Paul Getty in a sendup of the clichéd "cars, 'hos, and money" rhyme. Sadly much of this humor is gone on Party Music. Although the album pushes musical boundaries, incorporating analog synths with Eighties-style beats, the rabble-rousing lyrics lack the power they once had. It's not that Riley's lost his touch -- he remains the Phil Ochs of the hip-hop generation, with plenty of one-liners and slogans, most of them pretty good. It's that it just doesn't seem to matter anymore.
Riley is at the top of his game, however, on "Wear Clean Draws," an open letter to his daughter, and the bittersweet coming-of-age tale, "Nowalaters," both shining examples of Riley's gift with words. And his call for action, "Heven Tonite," which picks up where 1999's brilliant "Underdogs" left off, also displays Riley's genius for poetic characterization. Still, three tracks hardly save an album that ceases to provoke the revolution it madly urges.
Revolutionary heroes have a shelf life, and after it expires it's hard to stay afloat. Bob Dylan found God and sank anyway. The Clash found hip-hop and sank as well. Flavor Flav found crack.... Unfortunately history doesn't offer too much consolation for music's political ponies, no matter how great their talent.