Rage Against the Machine founding member Tom Morello and Boots Riley of the Oakland hip hop outfit the Coup kicked out the jams with their latest project, the Street Sweeper Social Club, in an after-hours set last night (May 5) during the Roots' weekly party at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.
The collaboration recalls some of RATM's classic work, with Morello's heavy riffs and inventive guitar work dueling with Riley's agitprop rhymes. The new songs are an update of the somewhat staid hybrid rock-rap genre Morello helped popularize with Rage in the 90s.
The Street Sweepers played a handful of songs from the group's new album, including "100 Little Curses" and "Nobody Moves (Til We Say Go)" -- a song built on the same chassis as Rage's hit "Killing In The Name" -- and others from their debut album. The band also covered M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," emphasizing Riley's hyphy drawl and Morello's homage to The Clash’s classic "Straight To Hell" guitar riff sampled on that song.
Morello calls the Street Sweeper's debut a collection of "revolutionary party jams," with songs built on articulating, arousing, and inspiring booty-shaking class resentment. The band wore matching black and red carmagnole, long coats popularized by the sans-culottes during the French Revolution, which were emblazoned with the band's C.C.C.P.-inspired logo. “This is a time when the working class is being fleeced left and right," Riley said. "More families will be homeless and more people will be jobless. They’ll need something to listen to on their ipods while storming Wall Street.”
Riley is best known as the leader of the Coup, an Oakland-based hip hop group infamous for the original artwork to their 2001 album Party Music depicting the band standing in front of an exploding World Trade Center while Riley pushes the button on a guitar tuner like a bomb detonator. The album was scheduled for release on September 11, 2001, but was held back until the band could secure new artwork.
Tom Morello is a widely known political activist, having formed Axis of Justice, an organization that brings together musicians, music fans, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He is also one of the only two "playable" guitarists on the popular video game "Guitar Hero III."
On Sunday night, Morello performed with Bruce Springsteen at Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where he praised Seeger as "a link in the chain of groups like Rage Against the Machine, System Of A Down, The Clash, and Public Enemy: music that serves the purpose of social justice, but also music that stands on its own." (Check out the Billboard video here.) The Street Sweepers recalls all of these influences, if not in sound then certainly in spirit.