Saul Williams

Saul Williams

5.0 1
by Saul Williams
     
 
As he did on his stellar debut, Amethyst Rock Star, spoken-word poet and actor Saul Williams challenges the hip-hop community to broaden its horizons -- beyond keepin' it real and bling-bling posturing -- on this self-titled disc. "B boys, B men," he chided on Amethyst's "La La La," and he continues to chastise the

Overview

As he did on his stellar debut, Amethyst Rock Star, spoken-word poet and actor Saul Williams challenges the hip-hop community to broaden its horizons -- beyond keepin' it real and bling-bling posturing -- on this self-titled disc. "B boys, B men," he chided on Amethyst's "La La La," and he continues to chastise the vapid state of mainstream rap music on the propulsive, electric guitar–driven "Telegram," on which he reports, "Hip-hop is lying on the side of the road half dead to itself." On "Grippo" -- which fuses a Boogie Down break beat and Radiohead-reminiscent angst -- Williams goes one step further, giving a state-of-the-nation address for hip-hop, which has atrophied as a result of negligence and abuse at the hands of those who created it. Satirically, he proclaims, "I gave hip-hop to white boys when nobody was lookin' / Found it locked in a basement, when they gentrified Brooklyn… / Right or wrong / I think hip-hop is where it belongs." As ever, Williams remains both a cultural critic and an activist -- he recorded a version of the "Not in Our Name" antiwar initiative's "Pledge of Resistance" -- and here he channels his fury at the Bush administration, which he views as corrupt and whose actions he likens to the betrayal of Caesar by Brutus, on the Zack de la Rocha–assisted "Act III, Scene 2 (Shakespeare)." On a more personal note, Williams reopens an old wound on "Black Stacey," where, over a mock minstrel melody, he describes the pain he endured due to his peers' constant ridicule of his dark complexion. Thoughtful and thought provoking, Saul Williams inspires black artists -- hip-hop and otherwise -- to unshackle themselves from the confines of conformity and to speak their truth.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Adam Greenberg
Critics have a hard time deciding what to call Saul Williams' music -- poetic hardcore, "punk-hop." It certainly isn't straightforward hip-hop by any means. On his self-titled album, Williams moves toward a slightly more accessible format (compared to his previous, more poetry driven work) with twisted guitar lines, heavy bass thumps, and a closer stab at singing from time to time. The album opens with poetry laid over a fairly sparse piano riff, then moves into a swooping, thumping bit of electronica where Williams nearly takes on a Prodigy-type sound with his vocal swagger. Where the opening track laid poetry over a sparse track, Williams' stinging telegram to hip-hop is poetry laid over a dense, dense sound à la Public Enemy's Bomb Squad. Zack de la Rocha shows up to lend a hand on a slightly more stripped down, and yet more straightforward, piece of hip-hop perhaps, an indictment of the Iraq war and its subsequent issues -- a modern, though less melodic, What's Going On. "List of Demands," an outstandingly frenetic piece (somewhat ironically appropriated by Nike), manages to build tension gradually, then hits that elusive perfect single beat at the opening to each break. "African Student Movement" uses a backbeat to produce something that might have fit into a stray Busta Rhymes album, but with what might be a Fela sample thrown in before it builds into a full-fledged chant. There's a little bit of a subtle Outkast vibe in "Black Stacey," a slurry cadence in the beat-heavy "PG," and an interesting interplay between plaintive cries of lyrics and a deep, minor structure in "Surrender." Amid some squawking, "Control Freak" mixes a hard snare with fairly sparse vocals. After one more run of spoken word poetry, the album ends on a somber note with "Notice of Eviction," which once again ramps up to a denser sound before it finishes. The album, like Williams in general, is difficult to categorize. However, that difficulty to categorize is symptomatic of a wider variety of sound. Essentially all of the lyrical content is built upon Williams' poetry, largely sociocultural commentary and protest. What that poetry is laid over, however, is a wild variety of sound, from sparse to dense, droopingly slow to frantically fast. It's not mainstream hip-hop as much as an outright rejection of the excesses and lack of attention in much of contemporary hip-hop. Despite being more mainstream than his previous work, this one isn't going to be grabbing people from the radio. Once it gets a listen though, it's likely to seduce listeners and turn them into fans.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/21/2004
Label:
Fader Label
UPC:
0829299090420
catalogNumber:
904
Rank:
82987

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Talk to Strangers
  2. Grippo
  3. Telegram
  4. Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)
  5. List of Demands (Reparations)
  6. African Student Movement
  7. Black Stacey
  8. PG
  9. Surrender (A Second to Think)
  10. Control Freak
  11. Seaweed
  12. Notice of Eviction

Album Credits

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Saul Williams 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago