Exclusive: Boots Riley Brings a Guillotine to Oz

Indie-hop stalwart Boots Riley plays the Scarecrow in search of a heart — and the power brokers behind the curtain — in the new video for “The Guillotine.”

But The Coup‘s frontman is looking for our nation’s heart and power too, as the 2012 general election nears.

“Elections are not an effective model for change,” the Oakland-based Riley, who has become one of the Occupy movement‘s most distinct voices, told me. “None of the progressive changes we’ve had over the last century came from electing the right politician. If you have a militant mass movement that is able to physically stop profits at production and distribution sites, you can make any politician do what you want. Politicians are puppets; we’re going after the puppetmasters.”

The digifunky “Guillotine” video is a rousing visual template for that process. Set to a track from The Coup’s forthcoming release Sorry to Bother You, the clip merges the stylistic choreography of The Wiz — Motown’s underrated, all-black 1978 reboot of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — with the witchy fantasy novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and even the French Revolution, which was inspired by the forging of the United States.

“Somehow, they all fit perfectly,” said Boots.

Of course, the video’s pop-cult and political influences don’t cut as deep as the actual guillotines favored by French revolutionaries, just in case anti-Occupy paranoiacs get too freaked out. Riley says his metaphors are more productive than the old-school neck-wreckers left behind in the dustbin of history.

“‘We got the guillotine’ means we have the power to get rid of the ruling class to create a classless society,” he said. “One where the people democratically control the wealth that they create with their labor.”

Riley’s latest work with The Coup is more aggressive, danceable, melodic and weird than the hip-hop outfit’s past releases like Genocide and Juice, Steal This Album and Pick a Bigger Weapon, he said. Co-produced with his friend Damion Gallegos over the last two years, Sorry to Bother You sometimes shoves vocals through amps, pounds broken ribbon mics on drumskins, and presses every keyboard pedal it can to get its populist message across.

Inclusion is its standard operating procedure.

“I’ve let a lot of my influences in that I usually might edit out, due to some incorrect idea of genre loyalty,” Riley said.

Screen “The Guillotine” for a energetic sample of what The Coup’s classless crusade brings to town when Riley and crew kick off their North American tour, starting Nov. 15 in Portland, Oregon. Sorry to Bother You arrives Oct. 30 from ANTI.

This article appeared at WIRED

Occupy Hip Hop

Michael Bloomberg May Have His Own Army, But Has He Already Lost the War?

Exclusive: Alan Moore’s Occupy Comics Essay

10 Things For Progressives to Be Thankful For

Exclusive: David Lloyd’s Ballsy Occupy Comics Cover