When 5ive met a Volcano: SAUL WILLIAMS INTERVIEW
I Am FORTUNATE!
I don’t think people know how EXCITED I was to actually have the Honor and sit down, meet and INTERVIEW Saul Williams! This man has been an source of inspiration of Love and Light for minute in my life. This is the best time line of Saul Williams I could think of. At any point feel free to scroll to the bottom and peep the interview. If not enjoy, the winding tale, 🙂
I was randomly introduced to Saul by way of the poem “Ohm” he wrote. I saw him perform it on HBO or MTV. You know how those Sprint Subliminal messages commercial were? That’s how this dude poem hit my ears. I didn’t know words could do that! I didn’t even catch his name when I saw the poem, I remembered the performance and the words, which I guess any poet would hope would happen. A few years later, my drama Teacher/Mentor, Mr. Reddix, made us do an assignment to act out a monologue or perform song lyrics. I originally chose Royce Da 5’9″ Won’t Be. It was a cool song but left a lot to be wanted as a monologue. I then remembered watching Saul performing Ohm and figured it was about as much as a monologue I could find. I yahoo’ed (yeah YahOO’ed) the lyrics and found the poem. I memorized it and hit the stage. I felt I did good job but Mr. Reddix wasn’t feeling it. He told me I had a grasp of how to say the poem (memorization) but not how to SAY it. He advised me to go through the poem and try to define the words and make the meaningS and understand the metaphors BETTER!
“and I roam through the streets of downtown Venus
trying to auction off monuments of Osiris’ severed penis
but they don’t want no penis in Venus
for androgynous cosmology sets their spirits free” —Ohm
I eventually came back and killed that Poem/Performance. And I guess in a way I forever learned what the word androgynous means,lol. And I became a Saul Williams fan.
Ironically an underclassmen turned me on to Saul Wiliams first album Amethyst Rockstar. I think @MisterBats had introduced me to the lil homie. We would spend lunch running it about exclusive underground rap we had heard. He asked me if I had heard Amethyst Rockstar and I honestly had to say no. He flipped it to me and I was hooked. Or I was getting hooked. When I sat back and listen to it, it was crazy. Just like Ohm had assaulted my cerebrum, Amethyst Rockstar took me on an acid trip. At the time, I didn’t know Saul Williams had Rick Rubin behind the boards as the main producer on the album. To me, the album just jumped around a bunch of genres, sonically, but it was so rooted in the rhyme.
“how much it gonna cost to buy you out of my mind?
penny for a thought, y’all niggas is half steppin’ wastin’ my time
please, nigga what? you talkin to me?
please baby, baby, baby can I borrow – can i borrow a nickle, a dime, and
penny for a thought, penny for a thought
how much will it cost to buy you out of buyin’ into a reality that
originally bought you?
dime a dozen, y’all niggas a dime a dozen
penny for a thought, nigga, c’mon, penny for a thought
think fast, think fast, c’mon, time is money” —Penny For A Thought
I tried to play it for friends but they couldn’t vibe with the mix of poetry and the odd beats. Apparently Coded Language doesn’t stimulated the minds of high schoolers,lol. I banged that album for a minute. I wasn’t aware of his books or other music he had, so I was just stuck re-playing Amethyst RockStar on infinity.
The next time I had the pleasure of hearing about Saul Williams again was actually on MTV. This was probably in 2004. This was in the early days of MTV2, i think. Anyway I’m lounging at the crib and I see Saul on the tube. I immediately turn the volume up! Saul had like the vintage chic look. In retrospective his outfit was something similar to the way he describes the way Black Stacey dressed. If you know the song the piano kicks in then its follow by these jazzy hi-hats (cymbals) and Saul slowly creeps into this narrative about being Black Stacey.
Shyt was dope. Besides the ill beat, the wordplay and the song structure had me lost in the fact that Saul dropped a little black history mixed in with a fictional narrative. I later learned this song was going to be on his self-titled album Saul Williams. I immediately hit the record store. I purchased his album from Tower Records, which is now Peaches on N Peters, for 13.99. I can’t front it was different from Amethyst Rockstar but I was instantly pulled in off his signature spoken word style on “Talk to Strangers.” Black Stacey was a cool single but I think the stand out joint on there to me was “Control Freak.” This really wasn’t a rap song. I mean there’s good lyrics and some of the words rhyme but Saul really saves the song by Singing. I was surprised by the level of comfort he had when he does sing. I think at this I had that one dimensional view of how an artist should be and he totally shattered that.
Now my Saul Williams collection was kinda thriving. I knew Ohm by heart and had a new album to study and learn. (I like learning the words to songs.) Unfortunately Katrina kinda cancelled that collection. Ironically though, I found an old copy of Amethyst Rockstar that I was able to re-burn and I had accidentally put Saul Williams into Lyrics Born’ Same Shyt, Different Day (That album goes tough too and the artwork is beyond dope). I guess it would be fitting to say Eviction Notice kinda rose in the ranks of being one of my favorite songs.
The next time I met Saul was in Christmas of ’06. A good friend of mine brought me not only “,said the shotgun to the head” and S(he) but also got a hoodie made with a saul williams quote on the back. (You know I still rocked that hoodie, right?!)
The books were light reads compared to say Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” but they were so compounded:
“only through new words
might new worlds
into order” -,said the shotgun to the head
at the seams
but our grandmothers
were both seamstresses
for a reason” – S(He)
I read, re-read and listened. The funny thing about Saul is that most of the poems have been flipped into songs. So its interesting just to go back and re-read and get a sense of what the writer was going for. S(he) is about his relationship with Painter/Collaborator Marcia Jones, mother of Saturn and ,said the Shotgun to the head is an epic poem in the same vein as the Illad without all the pages.
The next time I met Saul was kind of a time-warp. My wife brought me a copy of Slam over Christmas break of ’07. I remembered once seeing this movie on cable in years prior but I never owed it. (And still do)
Then I got wind that not only had Saul Williams dropped a new album but he was gonna be performing in my city in February or March of 08. N*kka I was tooooo psyched. I immediately hit the internet to cop the album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!
Niggy Tardust to me was like the first concept album from Saul. It was the brainchild of Saul and Trent Reznor, who he had met by opening up for the Nine Inch Nails on their European Tour in ’07. I think this was around the time myspace was popping because I was re-directed to Saul website off his myspace page. Following the trend of Radiohead, Saul had put the album out entirely on the internet for listeners/fans to pay as they saw fit. This album to me was the closest thing to flat out rap. Eventhough it has a more edgy punk, rap/rock feel.
“Hail Mary, Mother of God
Got the whole host of angels shuffling in my iPod
Niggas learned to raise their voices when I lowered my rod
Staff of Moses, pharaoh knows it, son, my word is my bond
Tune my heart with mind, speak my nature: Divine
Callin’ shit into existence back in ’79
With the future in my pocket tightly gripped like a nine
Keep my finger on the trigger waiting for the right time
Ancient niggas align, path of cosmic design
Blood of kings cause Saturn’s rings, don’t need no diamonds to shine
Yes, the reason for the season, ornamented divine
Coded language of the mystics with my fist in the sky” —DNA
DNA was the obvious standout to me because of the catchy song lyrics but the surprising hit was “Sunday,Bloody, Sunday.” I remember pumping this song at work and my homie Brock was like “I didn’t know you like U2?” Bono? Naw man this is Saul Williams ripping (singing actually). I was sad to find out that it was in fact a U2 song but I feel Saul brings new light to it. Kinda how Cam’ron help The Police with Roxanne except in the fact of simply sampling it, Saul just nailed it. I do have to give credit to U2 though. I was Barnes and Noble and their version of the song came on and I was like man, where’s Saul part,lol.
Sunday, Bloody, Sunday
I remember the streetcar ride there was kinda magical because here I was this big “fan” really about to have this opportunity to really see the music live.
“Not until you sat on a Rocky Mountaintop listening to Rakim, have you heard hip-hop” -Twice The First Time
The show was dope but the most interesting thing about it was the make-up and feathers that Saul rocked. Dude came out in a red and yellow v-neck and with metallic face paint. I thought to myself dude really brings theatre to his shows. The V-Neck was ill too. I believe on the back it said “The Truth Is Here” or something like. And did I mention how dope it is to hear him go for Eviction Notice to a super hodge podge poem then back to D.N.A. It’s like the books on crack. Oh and he had the illest merch table ,with a cutie working it too.(Her name was something electic like Nefertiti,) In a nod to old school hip-hop and to promote the Niggy Tardust album, he had like Tardust chains and Niggy two finger-rings. I eventually ended up buying a shirt but I really should have brought my books to get them sign but dope shirt is mild victory over a sign booked. I didn’t personally meet Saul but I had the memory so I was good.
The next time I saw Saul perform was at the Afro-Punk that came through on Nov of ’09. The Afro-Punk Tour is inspired by the film Afro-punk (2003) which spotlighted the lives of Black Punks living in America. Afro-punk is a growing cultural movement giving a voice to thousands of multi-cultural kids fiercely identifying with a lifestyle path-less traveled. Not unlike the early days of Hip-Hop, the scene is a touchstone for tens of thousands of urban progressive kids across the nation who, tired of feeling like outsiders, have sought out Afropunk.com, where thousands of users, bands, bloggers, and activists gather to and connect with the Afro-Punk community.
My homie Brock had been a big Tool fan and by me playing so much Saul (Sunday, Bloody, Sunday) at the workplace he opted to tag along to peep out Church at a Saul Williams show. I don’t remember much of Saul’s set but when Cx KiDTRONiK took the stage, shyt went bananas. Homie threw on this zippered mask(?) and proceeded to bounce around the stage. The speakers blared something about Krak Attack and I totally felt unsafe. For some reason that let me know the show was gonna be bomb!
The next time I heard from Saul was actually in Nike commercial. I was lying down and out of my grandmother’s room I hear these words:
“I want my money back/ I’m down here drownng in your fat.”
I RAN up the hallway to sit indian style watching this awesome ass Nike commercial. Wow, I thought Saul just had placement in a Nike ad. Instead of a select few people knowing of him, now he had reached the masses. Charlie Sheen would call that a Win! Me and the homie Brock debated whether Saul had sold out by aligning himself with such a monolith like Nike. I never processed it as selling out. I mean he sold Nike the right to use his song but he was totally using Nike to spread his message. Fcuk if that’s selling out call Adidas and Converse tell’em I am ready to sell. Nevertheless, as we debated Saul was making moves.
and that brings us back to the latest time I met Saul which was on his actual birthday 2/29/12. (Yeah he’s a Leap Year Baby.) I had been keeping tabs on Saul since I had brought NGH WHT with the Arditti Quartet, which I misnamed nIghT wAtCH. I heard rumblings of a new album in the works but no songs or lyrics were out there. I took to following Saul on Twitter just in case he was going to drop an exclusive on the net. Lucky me, I stumbled across “Explain My Heart.” I can’t front I felt let down. Im bumping this Niggy Tardust, Amethyst Rockstar, Saul Williams, Black Stacey. I was wondering in which direction would the new album be.
The album eventually dropped overseas, extra props to Sony France, and he started touring only overseas. I was still on the fence about the album but as a fan I still was dying to see him. Lo and behold, the US Tour kick off. I was geeked. In the most proactive I have ever been in my life, I shot out a random email on his website about possibly doing an interview. Days kinda went by and I figured it was a no go. Then I got an email from Ms Kelly Kreuger saying it was possible for an interview to happen. I was on beam! This was around Christmas break of ’11. I was stoked but I was nervous. What would I say? What would I do? Would I extra fanboy? Shid, would the interview even happen. Well hit the links and see….
I am that nikka, I am that nigger,
I AM THAT NEGRO, NECRO Cause I Over CAme IT!….