Longtime practitioners of the Bay Area bump are Oakland's Souls of Mischief. After flirting with mainstream success with '93 Til Infinity, the Souls, part of the much-loved Hieroglyphics ensemble, returned to their underground roots over the past several years. The group's youthful flights of '93 Til have given way to a street-hardened edge, but the dynamic storytelling and furious word-bending are still central to its blunt-fueled groove. On the collective's third album, Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution, released last year, it catalogs record biz fallout with "Fucked in the Industry" and copes with ghetto life on "Trilogy." Though their innocence is long gone, the Souls still counter thug bravado with hip hop's oldest maxim: Respect is earned through rhyme skills.
Fellow Oaktown duo the Coup aims to move the masses. With Boots Riley at the microphone and Pam the Funkstress on the decks, the Coup melds anti-capitalist politics with '70s-era funk beats. Even after the band had to pull prophetic cover art of exploding WTC towers from its recent album, Party Music, Boots still foments revolution. Injecting humor into his lyrics, he calls for action against inequality, economic disparity, racist cops, and the American system. Patriotic folks take note: Boots has barred anyone wearing star-spangled duds from entering a Coup show.