THE COUP Original cover art for Party Music goes boom.
Anti-capitalist rap group the Coup planned to use the image pictured here as the cover for its new album, Party Music, slated to be released in October. On the day of the terrorist attacks, Elektra Records vetoed the image. The Stranger was able to talk to the Coup's MC Boots Riley about these events.

Whose idea was the Party Music album cover?

I came up with the idea with the photographer. We took the pictures on May 15, and we were done with it by the beginning of June. Any similarities are totally coincidental, and it was originally supposed to be more of a metaphor for destroying capitalism--where the music is making capitalist towers blow up. The politics of the Coup have more to do with the people organizing each other.

The actions that happened on Tuesday [September 11] isn't the type of action that we condone. It doesn't have anything to do with organizing a revolution in my book, because revolution has to do with the people organizing to control their own wealth--that they produce--and to have democratic control over the profits that are made off their own backs. So I don't want anyone to misconstrue that [terrorism is something] we're condoning, as some sort of way to progress political ideas. And also, I want it to be clear that I have been touched by this personally, and express deepest sympathy to the families and friends of all the victims there.... [But] when WEA [Warner/Elektra/ Atlantic], the distributor, said they wouldn't distribute it, I was for keeping the cover.

You were for keeping the cover?

Yeah, and this is why: As the day unfolded, I saw--which is what I should've known--what the media was doing with this tragedy. How the media and the government were using people's shock and sadness to parlay it into spending millions more on the military, and to parlay it into making people [approve of] super right-wing measures--and using this incident on Tuesday to put forth the picture that this happened in a vacuum, as opposed to what really is going on--the fact that this is just one in a series of blows that needs to be compared to what the U.S. does on a yearly basis throughout the world. Even if all 50,000 workers died in there, it wouldn't match up to the 100,000 people the U.S. generals ordered to be killed in East Timor.

This album cover has you blowing up the Trade Center. I mean, that's...

Well, obviously that wouldn't have been as funny if I made it after this [event].

No. I would think it wouldn't be funny at all. So why would you want to keep that exact same cover?

What I was saying is that there's been a whitewash in the media over the past couple days over what the U.S.'s role in the world is, and the fact that they kill hundreds of thousands of people per year to protect profit. Now how can I get to the point where I could be saying that on the world stage, and interrupt the lies that CBS, CNN, NBC, and everyone is saying? In my view, that [would be] by keeping the cover. Not because I think by looking at the cover you get all of this message that I'm telling you, but as a way to have a platform to interrupt the stream of lies that are being told right now.

I feel like what's happening right now in the media is so dangerous to the political state of people that if I kept that cover, it would give me at least a platform to expose the realities of what's going on. Not because I think that the cover would get across what I think needs to get across, but because--first, the cover is not even on there right now, and I'm having this interview with you. If the cover did come out, then maybe I, or somebody, would then be able to--while people are saying "Why did you do this?"--to expose the realities of what's going on, while at the same time letting people know, "No, I'm not down for [what happened on Tuesday]." What I want to do is tell you that the blood that happened on Tuesday is on the hands of the U.S. government.

You guys caught some controversy prior to this, when you first signed to Elektra. Since the Coup is radically political, and communist, and anti-capitalist, etc., I wonder if you've checked out Elektra in terms of United States corporate globalization?

We all play this game, you know. You go to work in the game. The only media outlets that they let you have are through the major corporation, so if you don't go through the major corporation, very few people hear what you have to say.

But your cover presents the image of killing about 50,000 innocent civilians. I wonder, really, how funny that is.

No, like I said: It wouldn't be funny at all. But the point is that I'd be able to get the message out there, and it would be basically using that to circumvent how the U.S. government and the media is using this even to their benefit. And I'm just surprised that there aren't more articles in the media already--you know, from local newspapers like The Stranger, or the Bay Guardian, or anything like that, talking about what a load of bullshit they're putting through to us on the media about this.

Warner shut down the cover right away, meaning that just showing the imagery is disrespectful. When we know that Warner probably, the first day, bought the movie rights to the whole ordeal, that's going to be okay. It's okay that they've got Levi's commercials in between the scenes of people jumping 80 stories to their deaths. That's okay. But when somebody might have a political view on the whole context of what's going on in the world, it's not okay....

What's about to happen in the next few months is that there are going to be hundreds upon hundreds of people dying all over the world, with the perceived thumbs up from masses of people in the United States.

I guess while I do share some of the views that you're conveying here--a number of things are horrifying with the United States government and its involvements in the rest of the world--I would not be able to get behind the resistance that you are articulating through that album cover. The part I have trouble with is that you seem to be justifying your use of this image while, at the same time, you're condemning the media for it. Does the media's manipulation of the image make yours any less bad?

It doesn't make it less bad, it's me getting in there to say, this is what's going on with that. Now if they're telling lies, somebody has to counter it.... The U.S. government and the media are using these events to forward political agendas. And it's very obvious. It's not even something that takes a lot of research. It's very obvious.