With its 1993 Wild Pitch debut, Kill My Landlord, Bay Area Marxists The Coup set out to fix hip-hop’s broken moral compass and warped value system. That would seemingly be enough for most acts, but The Coup has somehow grown more ambitious with each successive album. The overlooked 1994 classic Genocide & Juice introduced frontman Boots Riley’s obsession with concept albums and elaborate story suites, for example, and the group has progressively moved farther away from the rapper/DJ model to the point where Pam The Funkstress’ role in the group now seems largely ceremonial.
Musically and attitudinally, Sorry To Bother You is a throwback to the early days of hip-hop, when Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five opened for The Clash, Blondie introduced new-wave denizens to hip-hop via “Rapture,” grubby graffiti artists rubbed shoulders with the bohemian art-world elite, Malcolm McLaren released seminal jump-roping jams, and black and white New York intermingled in all manner of new and revolutionary ways. Leadoff track “The Magic Clap” is a fuzzed-out rave-up with a revolutionary bent, complete with a cheerleading chant: Imagine a “Hey Ya” designed to be played at riots and insurrections rather than weddings and bar mitzvahs. “Your Parents’ Cocaine” would still suggest Riley leading The Clash on a merry, naughty, drunken sing-along in London circa 1979 even if it wasn’t powered by kazoos.
Sorry To Bother You takes The Coup’s fiery rhetoric and bohemian aesthetic from the revolutionary Oakland of the ’70s to the Soho of the early ’80s. The record speaks to a realm of seedy glamour and mindless decadence where self-destructive revelers are too enraptured of drugs, sex, and bad behavior to realize that they are the victims, pawns, and vessels of powerful forces beyond their control. Sorry To Bother You is the product of a man whose musical vision transcended even the most expansive conception of hip-hop long ago and today encompasses everything from Beatles-like orchestral pomp with a symphonic sweep (“Violet”) to snotty political punk (“You Are Not A Riot (An RSVP From David Siquieros To Andy Warhol)”) to sweeping anthems (“This Year,” “The Guillotine”). Funny, cinematic, and sweeping, Sorry To Bother You may have been written to soundtrack a film of the same name that Riley has written and plans to star in, but it’s more than that. It’s a concept album, a bold provocation, a statement, a riot, and a hell of a party to boot.