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Releasing the album on Epitaph could further solidify the Coup's appeal to fans of political music. Kaulkin notes that his label has always had groups with a strong social consciousness, starting with the punk band Bad Religion. And while the Coup isn't the first hip-hop group on the punk-identified label Kaulkin previously inked deals with Blackalicious and alt.rap icon Sage Francis Boots has already crossed over to the anarchist punk audience, which may not listen to any other rap music. "In the punk world," he says, "the Coup has a special place."
But by picking the bigger weapon of a well-regarded, seemingly stable record label Epitaph is considered a "major indie" in music industry parlance Boots may have increased the chances that other audiences will become more familiar with the Coup's work. Kaulkin promises that fans will be able to find the record in stores, noting wryly, "That's never been a problem for us." He admits he'd be thrilled if Bigger Weapon sold 100,000 copies, but says, "We don't need it to sell that much to be happy with it." He's not counting on MTV exposure or commercial radio play to drive album sales, although a lot of press would be nice. "The Coup is a group that requires grassroots marketing."
Former Coup member T-Kash, who currently records as a solo artist for the Guerrilla Funk label run by the rapper Paris, came to appreciate Boots' special relationship with his audience during his years with the group. "I look at Boots as the ground assault technician, as far as his standing with his fan base," T-Kash says. "That's a rapport that's timeless." He adds that Boots not only taught him a thing or two about stage presence and writing lyrics, but helped shape his own ideological beliefs as well.
But the biggest impact Boots made on his protégé may have been in dispensing parental advice. "Boots was the only other male figure I could talk to as a parent," he says. "He would call me and recommend books. ... He helped me more than my prenatal class."
T-Kash fondly remembers Boots telling him, "When your baby is born, remember to always hold the child with your shirt off, have their skin up against yours. There's all these nerves in a child's skin that reacts to the touch of other skin, and it sensitizes their brain to be curious about the touch of another person. It gives them more initiative to bond with another person. Especially if you're the father. Always remember to do that."
On a recent afternoon, while picking up his older son from school, Boots is back in daddy mode. He disappears inside the building, then reappears five minutes later with five-year-old Nikos, whose mother, Boots' ex-wife Katja Hubbard, is a teacher in Oakland.
Nikos is pretty quiet, but also a little hungry. So the family dashes to Boots' favorite dining spot, the In-N-Out Burger on Hegenberger Road, where he orders cheeseburgers and fries for the children, hold the pickles, and a Double-Double and a soda for himself. He's not so politically obsessed that he's above eating at a fast-food spot if he's hungry, or drinking a Coke if he's thirsty.
Back at home in West Oakland, Nikos picks at his burger and fries. Bored, he comes into the room to see what his daddy is doing. Boots picks up his son and swings him around. The boy giggles as his legs are suspended in the air. A few minutes later, the rapper's eight-year-old daughter, Alina, whose original art adorns the living room walls, arrives home from school. She eats too. Then Boots gently reminds her she has homework to do.
Fifteen Years of Rebellion: A Coup-ography
By Eric Arnold
Kill My Landlord
Wild Pitch, 1993
For some strange reason, when the early-'90s hip-hop Golden Age is discussed, this album is often inexplicably overlooked. Some of the sample-and-loop-based songs sound rudimentary compared to the intricate, concept-driven thrust of the group's later work, and Boots has definitely grown in lyrical potency, but all the classic Coup elements are here: revolutionary attitude, socialist politics, hip-hop polemics, ironic humor, and street-level pragmatism. Key Tracks: "I Ain't the Nigga," "Not Yet Free."
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