Fat Cats, Bigga Fish
Label: Melee (Fontana)
After their well-meaning if poorly executed '93 debut, The Coup returned the following year reinvigorated. The militant agitprop remains, but the sonic foundation has been reinforced by trunk-rattling Bay Area G-funk. The new sound makes this seem more like a party than a lesson, despite the serious themes. Though most people focus on Boots Riley's politics, he remains one of hip-hop's most accomplished and focused lyricists -- themes of violence, vigilance and survival come alive thanks to his stark imagery and narratives that are complex and accessible.