Interview with Saul Williams

November 30, 2009

Saul Williams at The Venue in Vancouver November 17 2009 - Interview with

Saul Williams at The Venue in Vancouver November 17 2009 - Interview with

“I specifically try to create a kind of work that can exist in a classroom, in a classical setting, in the streets or in a rock and roll setting . . . however it reaches you is fine by me.” – Saul Williams

Vancouver, ON – On the fronts of race, message and media Saul Williams refuses to swear allegiance to anything but his own acumen. The resulting body of work is as varied and unpredictable as light refracted through glass: the source stays consistent but each beam hits its target in a different, beautiful way. The written word, the printed page, the stereo vibrations and the flickering screen all support Williams’ cathartic expression. He is hip-hop, the rock and roll of revolution, the symphonic sway, the mainstream idol and the underground hero all at the same time, and all without apology.

Saul Williams has worked with Rick Rubin and Trent Reznor, both moguls in their own rites, to release some of this generation’s most political and chilling albums. The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! is the latest, and possibly most belligerent release from the shit-disturbing poet. Williams makes a habit of turning symbols on their heads by returning language to public property: his moniker Niggy Tardust may make some fans cringe but damned if it doesn’t make them think and re-think the codes associated with hip-hop. And at the end of it all is compassion, human understanding and destruction of the systems which impose otherness.

And to top it all off, the man puts on one hell of a performance. Complete with sparkles, paint and feathers, Saul Williams hit the stage at Vancouver’s Venue to pound out some rock star poetry: writhing and glistening, you’d swear he was sex incarnate. HipHopCanada was fortunate enough to sit down with the talented artist to talk about the Afro-Punk tour, his association with Nike, and looking a white woman in the face.

HipHopCanada: You’re currently on the Afro-Punk tour, and I’m wondering what differentiates Afro-Punk from regular punk?

Saul Williams: I’m on the Afro-Punk tour, I’m not a creator of it so I can just give my opinion. I think of Afro-Punk not really as describing the particularity of the kind of music but more as a safe haven, particularly urban kids who come from an experience that expect one thing of them and deliver another, and feel isolated because they’re not necessarily into what you might think they should be into. They may be picked on, or feel alienated, then they discover a place like Afro-Punk and go, “Oh, there’s a bunch of urban weirdoes, or black weirdoes,” so I think of it as sort of a support group for those of us who fall between the cracks because we don’t fit easily within the context of genre and expectation. [read more]