“Presto! Read the Communist Manifesto…” More Benjamin than benjamins, The Coup’s tough-talking Marxist hip-hop might initially smack of Michael Franti-esque talking down or the funkful but funless conscious rap that got critics so boned up in c.1992, but it’s a lot more pleasurable than didactic. In fact if you were to push me to say what “Dig It” was actually about, I’d have to answer nothing but its own agitation, that agitation being both bodily and political – “Masses move as well as asses do” (Oh yeah, The Coup are witty, too, which makes them a bit of a standout in the stern milieu of the wholemeal hip-hopper).
Which makes The Coup less fellow-travellers of the Disposable Heroes et al, more a rap equivalent of the Redskins, say – hardline politicos who aren’t afraid to let dancing get in the way of their revolution. There’s no angst in “Dig It”, just pure, loping, confident fun. Hip-hop is good on fun and bad on angst because it tends to offer solutions where rock just gets stuck mournfully into problems. Even if those solutions – Marx or Farrakhan or unbelievable wads of money – don’t stand up to analysis, they give hip-hop as much backbone as the beat does. The beat in “Dig It” is a gem, a wide, rolling, smiling, bounce-inducing thing spiced up by a potent keyboard groove, fairground noises, stop-start turntable tricks and some funny, fluent rhymes. Shamefully I don’t know who’s rapping here, but he’s great – cajoling instead of coercing; warm, humane and resigned. The Coup’s unfashionably clear-cut, unmystical leftism met with resounding failure and they remain an intriguing hip-hop footnote, so my immense thanks to Fred Solinger for turning me on to this terrific track.
I lost my tape of this a while after writing about it and only recently downloaded it - it was very disappointing, a lot more lumbering and unfunky than I'd remembered, though it might easily sound better pitched up. At the time I didn't listen to a lot of hip-hop while liking most of what I did hear, I started to explore it in more depth the year after (though 'depth' is a relative phrase). The result in writing terms is odd generalisations like "hip-hop...tends to offer solutions while rock bets stuck mournfully into problems". What did I mean? Dunno, but it's an interesting (tho somewhat optimistic) idea. It's the kind of sentence that would turn up in a Pitchfork review and get mercilessly torn apart by ILM, and it makes me think I should be more generous to Pitchfork-style writing, in that it seems better to leap feet-first into analysis and get it wrong than spend all your time guarding your words.
The maddest moment in this review is the Redskins comparison - I had only heard one Redskins song at the time, "Lean On Me", which is in fairness a lot more upbeat than "Dig It!"