THE COUP, "Pick a Bigger Weapon"

Longtime funk/hip-hop collective the Coup relocates to the punk outpost Epitaph for a set full of the fist-up militantism both outlets have become synonymous with.

Longtime funk/hip-hop collective the Coup relocates to the punk outpost Epitaph for a set full of the fist-up militantism both outlets have become synonymous with. "Weapon" is the Coup's first record since the 2001's ill-fated "Party Music," whose original cover art (completed months before 9/11) depicted the crew blowing up the World Trade Center. Needless to say, it was one that made them a big bottle of cultural rat-poison at the time.

But controversy aside, "Party Music" was smart and well-considered (the original cover did it a disservice, indicating a more blank, clunky sort of rage) and so is "Weapon," especially sonically. The last five years have found Coup impresario Boots Riley moving from straight hip-hop into '70s/'80s-era synthetic funk; the blippy, burbly sounds herein ("ShoYoAss," "Get That Monkey Off Your Back") might indicate a night at the club if the calls for revolution weren't so consistently loud.

But though the subject matter's heavy, the music is often not. "We Are The Ones" rolls over a great keyboard riff, "Head of State" turns some dirty titular wordplay and "Baby Let's Have a Baby Before Bush Do Something' Crazy" works just as a title. Not surprisingly, the record's something of an all-star team of anti-Dubya hip-hop/punk voices: Black Thought and Talib Kweli appear on the horn-addled and soulful "My Favorite Mutiny," and Tom Morello and Jello Biafra provide cameos. That's because Riley's clearly shooting to become hip-hop's answer to Billy Bragg or Steve Earle, and he's getting there. His ambitions outweigh his results, but there's very little about his "Weapon" that won't spark a response. -- Jeff Vrabel