With the same combination of strategy, passion, and social upheaval synonymous with their name, 1990s hip-hop legends The Coup delivered an invigoratingly cathartic and soulful set Saturday night at the Mississippi Studios. When a band with this degree of clout and history settles comfortably in a smaller venue space without the physical theatrics of larger concert halls, it fosters a sweet, intimate connection between the artist and the audience. Space evaporates, giving way to seemingly tangible sound waves and head tripping vibrations. Boots Riley’s notorious stage presence alone was enough to consume the narrow Mississippi Studios, and the performance of each hit from their past brought on a raw, party-centric rage.
The band’s female vocal portion was provided by Silk-E, who has been touring extensively with them both nationally and internationally this year. Based out of San Francisco, Silk-E has been steadily gaining ground since 2004 for her stunning R&B voice. The synergy between Riley and Silk-E was impressive; the two of them together generated a rare and infectious intensity on stage. Silk-E’s rather informal introduction happened after she ran onto the stage mid-set to join The Coup for a performance of “Magic Clap,” which was, well….magic. The audience was also treated to a couple of her own R&B style songs during The Coup’s set.
Just before The Coup, Luck One proudly represented local Portland hip-hop. Between socially charged cuts, he continued to remind his neighborhood fans that he was the Soulja Boy antithesis of the hip-hop world. While still heavily emphasizing the lyricism, Luck One’s style also incorporated creative instrumentation that digresses from the gangster-style hip-hop that he expressed clear disdain for. Traditional sounding beats laid the foundation for varied electronic tones and served as a complement to Luck One’s classic voice.
Cloudy October opened the evening with his avant garde hip-hop album, The Metal Jerk with an extremely engaging performance style. Songs such as “Left Front Burner” and “The Ins and Outs of the Female Reproductive System” were delivered to the crowd physically as well as lyrically, with expressive gesturing, dancing, and audience eye contact. Needless to say, the Portland audience ate it up, and showed the local rapper a lot of love during his set. Cloudy’s relaxed and slightly improvisational stage presence gave his performance a delightfully casual feeling, and made the lyricism backed by minimalistic instrumentation very impactful.