Saul Williams: Setting the world afire

January 19, 2005

Saul Williams
Saul Williams
Fader Lanbel
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"This ain't hip hop no more. It's bigger than that", declares Saul Williams in an early cut on his latest, self-titled cd. The man is right. This cd takes spoken word and beats and carries them into new territory. Saul Williams may be the Picasso of contemporary spoken poetry — cutting new angles, new attitudes with his fierce wit and political vision.

A movie actor (Slam, K-Pax), author and respected performance poet (at the Nuyorican and Taos World Championship Poetry Bouts and in the New York streets at the August Republican National Convention protests), Saul Williams is first and foremost an edgy, musical activist. No droning verse here. As on his earlier recordings, Amethyst Rockstar and Not in My Name, Williams sings, shouts, raps and chants — even moans — over varied and exciting rock melodies and hip-hop riddims.

This CD takes on both the twisted exploitation and potential cultural redemption enmeshed in the hip-hop culture, and Williams does not leave this meditation without an assertive growl: "There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come!" Elsewhere on the CD, Williams attacks both racism and the destructive economic machinery of death and war. His weapons include an astonishing vocabulary and a free-associating intellect that sparks striking images and revelations. Saul Williams, like Saul himself, is at its fiercest moments astonishing.

The CD slows down at points and does not always hit such volcanic levels of revolutionary fervor and verbal-musical incandescence. But this recording rewards multiple listenings, and its varied pace itself reveals a powerful pattern. This is music, and poetry, from the people and for the people. Williams is a peoples' word warrior and no mistake.

Saul Williams aims to set the world ablaze with words. Saul Williams lights that fire.

From Green Left Weekly, January 19, 2005.
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