Some time last week, Boots Riley of The Coup popped up on Democracy Now. They’ve just published the full interview transcript and tape.
It takes in his own digital fears as well as his background in the US Civil Rights movement and labour agitations. He makes this point about what drove him into using hip hop as a tool of agitation:
“I was organizing in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and, you know, we’d have demonstrations. There’d be eight people or, you know, 10 people, and we’d be like, “That’s a victory! You know, we’ve got to chalk this up as a victory.” And I was like, well, this really should be on a much bigger level. And I considered my art at the time one-on-one talking with people, like being able to take these bigger ideas that folks from a generation before, that—as I thought of most of the people I was in organizations with as being from a generation before me—taking these bigger ideas and cutting out the lingo that is associated with them, and just talking about the basic parts of it. And that was what I felt like my art was before I was doing music, and I wanted to put that into the music. I wanted to get the idea that there could be a rebellion, there could be a movement out there.
For me, and maybe it was just my cohort and just my group of folks, but even with all of this stuff—in high school, when I got attacked by the principal as being a communist and being, you know, loud on the loudspeaker—”Raymond Riley is a communist. Don’t listen to him. He wants to bring us back to the days of the Black Panther Party.” A high school in Oakland in 1986 didn’t know who the Black Panther Party was. And that has to do with—and the teachers were able to lie to us and tell us that the Black Panther Party was a black Ku Klux Klan—I mean, not to me, because I looked it up. But that tells you like the state of where organizing was.”
You can give it a listen on their site.