Career Coup: Former Student Boots Riley Subverts Cinema

Thursday, July 05, 2018

EAST BAY EXPRESS -- Sorry to Bother You explores the central tension of Riley’s career, his perennial concern about artists’ role in racial justice and building working-class power.

“You have to have something that you’re more passionate about than your art,” he told San Francisco State University students at a May screening. “There's no reason to do art for art’s sake.”

Riley did study film at San Francisco State University, but he dropped out in favor of throwing parties in Oakland. “Me and this other dude were making like $1,200 a week — in 1989,” he said. Once the cops caught on, he started working at UPS, where he conscripted coworker Eric Davis (E-Roc) to start The Coup. Pizo the Beat Fixer, Too Short’s DJ, helped place the first Coup song on a compilation after hearing Riley rap at a rally.