Music to Fight the Man to: the Dead Kennedys and the Coup
"Are you believing the morning papers?/War is coming back in style... " --The Dead Kennedys, "When Ya Get Drafted"
I'm anti-Republican and Democratic/ if they self-destruct/ that's anti-climactic/ Tired of bein' hunted like an antelope/ take the system by the throat/ that's the antidote/ so I pose a proposition/ take a look, be in support or opposition/ then be proactive proceed with confidence/ 'cause you know that you can't change shit by ridin' the fence"--The Coup, "Ride the Fence" (see Flash music video!)
As the post 9/11 madness rages on, CDs by late great punk rock band the Dead Kennedys have been fighting their way into my stereo more and more often. There's just something about Jello Biafra's over-the-top sarcasm/parody/what-have-you on the subjects of war, the US government, war, conservatism, war, market culture, war and everything else that makes me want to laugh and scream and sing and break things and dance and kick certain government officials in delicate spots all at once. Unfortunately, the Dead Kennedys put down their guitars for good when I was a politically unconscious six-year-old, and I don't know whether it's a testimony to their genius or to the sad state of our nation today that 23-year-old songs like "Kill the Poor" or "When Ya Get Drafted" still ring true (I suspect it's a bit of both).
Luckily my new favorite musical group of sarcastic/humorous/government-critiquing radical storytellers are very much together and kicking, in the form of West Coast hip-hop revolutionaries the Coup, aka brilliant emcee Boots Riley and talented turntablist DJ Pam the Funkstress. It's more likely that you've heard of them than you think: by unfortunate coincidence, the album cover for their latest masterpiece Party Music depicted them blowing up the Twin Towers (it was of course designed pre-9/11). The album was delayed until the image was replaced, at which point it was released to great critical acclaim: critics at The Washington Post, TimeOut New York, and The San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed Party Music"#1 Album of the Year"; and Rolling Stone awarded the Coup the title of Hip Hop "Artist of the Year", among other accolades. Their website declares that "overthrowing the system has never been so much fun," and they're right: like the DKs, this is a revolution you can dance to. Boots's deadpan delivery and brilliant lyrics combined with Pam's scratching and funk-influenced beats make my poor little head spin with happiness and anger, whether he's rapping about corporate evil, police brutality, lazy multi-millionaires-- "Got yo feet up on the desk noddin' off to sleep/ While I lift, push, pull, dig, sweat, and sweep/ I could work hard all my life and in the end still suffer/ Cuz the world is controlled by you lazy muthafuckas... You ain't never learned to drive or tie ya shoe/ I got my ear to the street and my eye on you/ You got a secretary to write down your thoughts/ On how to make us work hard and fatten up yo vaults/ TV say if ya poor, you must be slow and shiftless/ But you pay em' to say that so we don't want it different/ Got a cook and a girl to bring the tray for you/ You're hearin' this cause somebody pushed play for you"--from "Lazy Muthafucka" --or giving his young daughter some sound advice: "Tell that boy he's wrong/ Girls are strong/ Next time at show and tell play him our song/ Tell your teacher I said princesses are evil/ How they got all they money was they killed people/ If somebody hits you/ Hit 'em back/ Then negotiate a peace contract/ Life if a challenge and you gotta team up/ If you play house pretend that the man clean up/... The revolution takes time and space/ But you as a woman gotta know your place/ That's in the front baby..." --from "Wear Clean Draws"
But don't take my word for it. You can listen to the whole album on their label's website for free (if you have the free RealPlayer, that is), or read all their lyrics at the Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archive. Personally, I'm going to see them live tonight at Axis in Boston (dances around room with crazed excitement) .
Sidenote: For those of you who are not already DK fans and want to check them out, be warned: according to lead singer (and former Green Party presidential candidate) Jello Biafra, the sudden reincarnation of the band (without him) is a marketing ploy and a musical farce. Also, according to his label Alternative Tentacles (who also put out my lesbian punk rock idols Tribe 8), April is not only Gaypril, but "Jello Biafra Month."
Bonus! Download an MP3 of Jello Biafra (and Tom Tomorrow) acting out this Tom Tomorrow cartoon in his trademark bizarre punk rock announcer voice (I wonder if Jello speaks like that in normal conversation?)