Never exactly in the right place at the right time, Oakland's politically charged rap-funk-rock crew the Coup has seen its fortunes wax and wane since 1993, when it was founded by social activist-rapper Raymond "Boots" Riley, rapper E-Roc and DJ Pam the Funktress.
Early albums such as "Genocide & Juice" and "Steal This Album" traded in rocked-up rap and soul hybrids loaded with Riley's pointed radical-left lyrical content, such as "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" from 2001's "Party Music." "Pick a Bigger Weapon" in 2006 kept up the heat, with an emphasis on Riley's long-standing love affair with slinky retro-funk and soul and a sleazy party-down appeal.
At downtown's Crash Mansion on Saturday, it was the latter vibe that pervaded the Coup's late-night set. Seemingly determined not to alienate a crowd out for a good time, Riley and his band -- now a hard-rocking three-piece, plus singer Silk E -- put on a kind of lightly charged bacchanal that emphasized Riley's good-humored (kitschy, even) soul man charisma and the band's considerable musical chops.
The big-Afro'd Riley roamed the stage like a combination Bob Marley and George Clinton, mixing his speedy, snarly raps with a lot of soulful squealing and smooth crooning straight out of the Parliament/Funkadelic and Paris songbooks. His vision was often fascinating.
People are saying this isn't like the Coup anymore, what with DJ Pam out of the picture on tours and with this emphasis on the easy going. Could be Riley's just refiguring his best and most persuasive way to get the message across in times of political fatigue. Whatever the case, the Coup version 2008 throws one fine party.