It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
Thanks to the critical success of his new satirical film Sorry To Bother You, large swaths of the population have been introduced to the genius of Boots Riley. Undoubtedly, the intersection between racism and the dehumanization of capitalism on display in the film feels especially poignant in 2018. But longtime fans of Riley and his radically political hip-hop group The Coup know that he’s been preaching the anti-capitalist gospel for decades. In fact, back in 2002, he appeared on an episode of Bill Maher’s ABC show Politically Incorrect and passionately delivered arguments that wouldn’t seem out of place at a Democratic Socialists rally in 2018.
Rounding out the panel are soap opera actor Eric Braeden, conservative activist Erin Shannon, and comedian Harlan Williams sporting an unfortunate mustache-goatee situation. While the three of them interject with their own commentary (or in Williams’ case, a bit of comic relief), it’s really Boots Riley who steals the show. When the first segment opens with a discussion of the Enron scandal, the rapper comes out guns blazing, declaring that “we don’t really vote for politicians, we vote for corporate puppets” and that the recent bombing campaigns in Afghanistan have nothing to do with terrorism but are an attempt to create “little Enron states, little Exxon states, all throughout the Middle East.”
As the second segment turns to a discussion of a Muslim woman who refused to take off her hijab for a driver’s license photo, Boots Riley quickly becomes the only person on the show who—with 15 years of hindsight—doesn’t sound like a total asshole. While Maher is working out some of his signature, borderline Islamaphobic material and the other guests seem to just nod along in agreement, Riley points out that removing the woman’s hijab only became an issue after 9/11 and is just one of many reactionary, xenophobic initiatives the state is trying to enforce.
The episode ends with a look at The Coup’s then-new album, Party Music, which was initially released in early September 2001 with a cover depicting Riley and his bandmate Pam The Funkstress blowing up the World Trade Center. Obviously, following the events of September 11th, the album art was changed, but Riley is willing to defend the original artwork without hesitation. Interestingly, rather than be offended by the imagery itself, the rest of the panel seems more upset by the idea that Riley wants to “destroy capitalism.”
Clips like these are just proof that Boots Riley has always been just as authentically radical as he is today. It’s just taken a long time for the rest of us to catch up to him. For further proof, please see the following track from 1994, which we will use any excuse to post:
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