MOTHER JONES -- Set in Oakland, Sorry to Bother You was inspired by Riley’s stints as a telemarketer during film school at San Francisco State University — he dropped out after landing a record deal — and later between Coup albums.
“I always had some sort of sales job from the time I was 11. I was the kid knocking on your door selling subscriptions, saying, ‘I need one more subscription to get to Disneyland,’” he told me. “I became, for the wrong reasons, good at listening to people — to figure out how to sell them stuff.”
Riley came to political activism on his own, but it’s fair to say he was born into it. His father, Oakland attorney Walter Riley, was raised in segregated Durham, North Carolina, where he took part in lunch counter sit-ins and voter registration drives and eventually became a field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality. During the 1960s, at San Francisco State University, Walter protested the Vietnam War as a member of Students for a Democratic Society, and became a leader in the Progressive Labor Party.