Though it's already 2013, don't let 2012 escape until you listen to the Coup's Sorry To Bother You, a late-October burst of political hip-hop that's half party and half social treatise.
Led by Boots Riley, the Oakland group finds the proper balance right off the bat with "The Magic Clap," which sounds like Sly and the Family Stone channeled through the Gorillaz. Riley's lyrics are a burst of defiance: "We wanna breathe fire and freedom from our lungs/ Tell Homeland Security we are the bomb."
The first Coup album in six years—and the first since Riley teamed with Tom Morello on the Street Sweeper Social Club project—Sorry to Bother You was recorded free of samples, all live instrumentation that draws together punk rock urgency and hip-hop danceability.
In "Strange Arithmetic," Riley takes on the educational system, where economics equals hunger and theft; English as well as history teaches war; and science is about contorting molecules to make money. The chorus presents a new age of radicalism, a pro-teacher one that asks for help, a call to arms to improve the system: "Teacher, my hand's up, please don't make me a victim/ Teachers, stand up, you need to tell us how to flip this system."
In the 2012 of fiscal cliffs and Republican vulture economics, Riley sounds more like a sage of common sense and pragmatism instead of any type of militant. Sorry to Bother You is an instantly likable and powerful album—playful, funky, rocking and thought-provoking throughout.