Boots Riley: The Coup, Sorry to Bother You, and more We revisit our conversation with the writer-director and rapper Boots Riley. He's a founding member of the legendary hip hop group The Coup. The band's sound is politically-charged with a laid-back funk and has that classic Bay area cadence. His rhymes tell a story of his own life and deal with elements of social justice, poverty, racism. He's more than an artist. He's a long-time activist who uses his talents as a story-teller to move the needle forward in the world. In 2018 he made his directorial debut with the film Sorry to Bother You. It's a dark comedy that takes on late-stage capitalism, among other issues, head-on. Bootsy returns to Bullseye to talk about Sorry to Bother You, trying to find his style early on as both an individual and as a band member and how the narrative style of his song "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish" inspired his film career. Plus, he'll talk to us about how the very personal song "Underdog" helped him deal with the grief of losing a long-lost friend.
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Boots Riley: The Coup, Sorry to Bother You, and more

Boots Riley: The Coup, Sorry to Bother You, and more

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/820433758/820454032" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 24: Boots Riley speaks at An Artist at the Table Dinner and Program during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Utah Film Studios on January 24, 2019 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
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Writer-director and lyricist Boots Riley on his film "Sorry to Bother You"

Boots Riley is a story-teller. He carries a fire through his work in music and film that is intended to be built upon by others. Through his career as founding member of the hip hop group The Coup, he's been able to paint pictures of his past, of the way he sees current world events and to shine a disinfecting light of truth on issues involving social justice, poverty and racism.

His interest in activism took shape in his formative years while he was growing up in Oakland, California. He joined the Progressive Labor Party when he was only 15! At only twenty years old, he founded the hip hop trio The Coup alongside his United Parcel Service coworker and buddy E-roc. The group was socio-political, clever and could be described as radical. As lead lyricist his words were provocative and challenged class structures, patriarchy and capitalism. The music was always very funky and had that classic Bay area cadence that evokes Too Short or E-40. The group, which later became a full-on band, shares a similar sense of consciousness as artists like Rage Against the Machine, Dead Prez and Tupac.

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After nearly three decades of musical storytelling he made his directorial debut with the dark comedy Sorry to Bother You. It's set in an alternate reality Detroit and stars LaKeith Stanfield who plays Cassiuss Green. Green is a young Black man who is dealing with underemployment in a post 2008 recession world. He finds a job as a telemarketer and upon following the advice of a fellow coworker, played by Danny Glover, finds success in the position by adopting a "white voice." Green is later given a promotion and is soon forced to choose between his newfound upward mobility in a world that so rarely affords those types of opportunities to people of color or stand with the unionized workers.

The film challenges the efficacy of capitalism, questions wealth distribution and offers art as a form of activism against the status quo. It pulls from the sci-fi and horror genres in heaping handfuls while maintaining its measure as one of the funniest, most poignant and visually stunning films of 2018.

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Bootsy returns to Bullseye to talk about Sorry to Bother You, trying to find his style early on as both an individual and as a band member and how the narrative style of his song "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish" inspired his film career. Plus, he'll talk to us about how the very personal song "Underdog" helped him deal with the grief of losing a long-lost friend.

Sorry to Bother You is currently streaming on Hulu.

This interview originally aired in June of 2018.