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In the world of political hip-hop, two elements that have come to make it a unique style of sound and expression are the raw and uncensored lyrics and the faster and edgier instrumentals. This can be seen in songs by early political hip-hop groups, such as Public Enemy, and it continues to be present today in songs by groups such as The Coup or rapper Immortal Technique. In order to understand why political hip-hop has grown in popularity and why people consider it to have any appeal, we can look at the song “Everythang� by Oakland based hip-hop group The Coup. In short, “Everythang� has everything a typical political hip-hop song is made of, fast paced beats, fast and edgy lyrics and even displays of turntable-ism and sampling. On top of the traditional hip-hop elements, it also has a new and unique electronic feel that is catching a lot of popularity in the hip-hop genre.

In the world of political hip-hop, two elements that have come to make it a unique style of sound and expression are the raw and uncensored lyrics and the faster and edgier instrumentals. This can be seen in songs by early political hip-hop groups, such as Public Enemy, and it continues to be present today in songs by groups such as The Coup or rapper Immortal Technique. In order to understand why political hip-hop has grown in popularity and why people consider it to have any appeal, we can look at the song “Everythang� by Oakland based hip-hop group The Coup. In short, “Everythang� has everything a typical political hip-hop song is made of, fast paced beats, fast and edgy lyrics and even displays of turntable-ism and sampling. On top of the traditional hip-hop elements, it also has a new and unique electronic feel that is catching a lot of popularity in the hip-hop genre.
There are two sides to the song “Everythang�. The first side is the musical side, which lays with Pam the Funkstress, the female producer for the Coup who composes the instrumentals. The other side is the lyrical side, which lies with Boots Riley, an emcee from Oakland who is head of the Oakland Marxist Party and a strong political activist. While both play a strong role in the composition of the song, they both do very different things to make it happen. Pam the Funkstress sets the mood with a beat and Boots Riley adds the meaning to it all with his politically conscious lyrics.
The form of the song “Everythang� is fairly simple. Like most hip-hop songs, it is in 4/4 time and broken down into two verses that are followed by a common chorus. Throughout the whole song, the drum beat maintains its speed and the bass drum plays on all four beats throughout every measure in the whole song, however the melodies change between the chorus and verses. Also during the chorus, there is no rapping like there is in during the chorus, but instead it is a group of people rapping the same four lines twice. Overall, there are no major transitions or changes in the song that change the mood, and it stays consistently beating for the 3 minutes and 35 seconds that it lasts.
The very beginning of the song starts with nothing but a sample of a man talking and a soft droning electronic pad playing in the background. The man says “it was just about the time of the show when the hinges went to flyin’ off da motherfuckin’ door� and then very abruptly, six and a half seconds into the song, the upbeat drums come in and melody from the chorus starts with another scratched up vocal sample to make up the intro of the song. After the intro, which lasts eight measures, the first chorus plays for eight measures. Following the chorus is the first 16 measure verse, and then the chorus, one more verse, the chorus, an eight measure bridge that is the same as the intro, one last chorus, and then a 16 measure outro that contains the scratching of a steady synth tone by Pam the Funkstress.
One of the most interesting aspects of the song is the rhythm and drum beat, which plays in slightly varying ways throughout the whole song. Most hip-hop drum beats are structured so that the bass drum falls on the first and third beat of the measure and the snare on the second and fourth, however the song “Everythang� more so mimics a typical dance or electronic beat, with the bass drum falling on the first, second, third, and fourth, the snare falling mostly on the second and fourth beat, and the hi hat on every whole and half beat. This repeating rhythmic pattern plays throughout the entire song. What this accomplishes is a more upbeat, danceable and energizing feel, which fits well with the “stand up and do something� theme of the song. Another interesting aspect of the beat that gives it an edgy feel is that it is at 105 BPM, unlike most traditional hip-hop songs which are anywhere from 85 to 95 BPM. By making the beat faster than traditional hip-hop songs, the Coup is able to include a unique and stimulating feel into their songs just as Public Enemy did many years earlier.
The sounds which compose the drum beat of the song are similar to many hip-hop songs with the addition of some instruments not so commonly heard in a hip-hop composition. What must be noted is that the drums were not recorded live but actually sequenced using some sort of computer software or an MPC. Where Pam the Funkstress gets her sounds from in unknown, however it can be assumed that are sampled from other artists with the intention of being undetectable or from sounds she previously recorded herself. The two sounds that stand out in the drum beat are the triangle hits that fall on the first and second beat of every other measure in the song and also the timpani hits that are played variously throughout the verse and chorus. There are also electronic sounding claps that play throughout the song and spots where Pam the Funkstress puts the sound of an open hi hat during the third and fourth beat of the measure during the chorus. Because of the fact that the song was mapped out and sequenced electronically, there is not an organic feel to it but rather and sort of mechanical and electric feel to it. Also because of this sequencing software, all the beats and measures are the same length (2.2 seconds).
Unlike many hip-hop songs, there is not prominent bass line in the song “Everythang.� Instead the bass lies in the deeper pitched sharp synthesizer tone that plays throughout the whole song. This same synth tone also provides the melody for the verses of the song. The same melody repeats in each measure of the verse and throughout the chorus as well, however it is overpowered by a higher pitched synth tone during the chorus. These two synth tones compose the two melodies that play throughout the whole song, with only one of the melodies playing during the verse. The synth that plays during the chorus has a much more electronic sounding feel, as if it were sounds a robot or a futuristic computer would make, than the synth that plays during the verses. Both sounds that make up the melodies throughout the song are very sharp and short. During the chorus, the melody consists of very short and frequent synth hits that move very quickly in all directions on the scale. In a way it almost sounds hectic with all the synth noise, timpani rolls, and claps during the chorus, however this is most likely what the Coup intended. During the verses, the synth is played simpler and the music allows the listener to focus more on Boots Riley’s rap than the music. Also during the verse, the melody sometimes varies slightly by one or two notes, which could hint to the fact that Pam the Funkstress improvised a little while recording the synth line over the drum track.
All of the sounds were most likely recorded electronically, with the use of a sequencing program and MIDI technology. What Pam the Funkstress probably did was take a sequenced drum beat and record synthesizer over it via a MIDI keyboard. To make it even more solid, she probably had the help of various other electronic triggers and controllers. After the instrumental was completed, it was probably shown to Riley for him to create lyrics to go along with it. They then recorded the song and Pam the Funkstress did the final production and mastering.
As important as the instrumental is for the song, it would be meaningless without Boots Riley’s lyrics. “Everythang�, like most of the Coup’s songs, is very political, and in this case, a promise of taking over and starting an uprising. The line that ends each verse, “every broke motherfucker gonna form a gang, and when we come we takin’ everything� pretty much sums up what Boots Riley is trying to say. Although this may sound like an intense statement, Riley waters down the seriousness of it all by saying “everybody throw your lighters up� in the chorus, which gives the song a more light hearted party feel. He also says “this is your motherfucking party� at the end of the chorus. This party tone that is set in the chorus blends well with the instrumental at the time because of its energizing, electronic, and pulsing beat.
The lyrics during the verses also contemplate the music well. With a beat at 105 BPM, it is difficult to be able to form complex lyrical rhymes, so Riley keeps it short and simple by starting every measure (with a few exceptions) in the verses with the word “every.� By doing this, Riley is able to create a recognizable phrase in the song that enables the listener to get engaged on first listen and also able to comfortably rap to the fast speed. The truly meaningful part, and the only part that makes “Everythang� a political hip-hop song and not just a normal hip-hop song, is what Riley says following “every.� Lines such as “every banker is a fucking thief,� “every cop is a corrupt one,� and “every slave story present tense� all add a strong political meaning to the song that create just as much power and more emotion than the instrumental. Although Riley does not go into detail about why things are such, he is able to fit 32 politically charged lines throughout both verses. What is most interesting within the verse is how the music and lyrics contemplate each other. The radical and unique ideas expressed by Riley in the verses of “Everythang� mimic the feeling of the unique and supercharged beats of Pam the Funkstress.
Along with the music that composes the instrumental and the rapping, there are also two vocals samples that appear throughout the song. One is a sample of a man saying “Dub your shit,� and this appears numerous times right before the chorus throughout the song. Another vocal sample that is used is a sample of someone saying “superior sound quality.� Unlike the other vocal sample, Pam the Funkstress scratches it up to instead sound like “s-s-s-su-superior sound quality.� This appears not only in the intro of the song but also after the third chorus. The use of scratching with this sample and the synth tone and the end of the song adds another element of hip-hop to the mix and helps the Coup exemplify their music genre to the fullest.
With the instrumental created by Pam the Funkstress and the lyrics by Boots Riley, the Coup is able to display the perfect match of musical and lyrical talent in the song “Everythang� that exemplifies political hip-hop to the fullest. The fast paced and aggressive beats fit perfectly with the radical political message, which is what gives political hip-hop so much appeal these days. It may never be that every broke person forms a gang and takes over, however the Coup makes up for this fact with a powerful political song that represents the same thing that a takeover would if it did happen. It is this rebellious and edgy message that the song “Everythang� posses that makes it one of the best political hip-hop songs in the last 10 years.