Saul Williams Reaches out and reaches in with Niggy Tardust release

:: Saul Williams :: Colorado State University :: April 20 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: April 21 ::

By Lisa Oshlo

A rare and important voice on the underground hip-hop scene since the 1990s, Saul Williams has re-emerged with another album of his trademark thoughtful, Afro-centric, socially conscious and politically progressive work.

Long a fan of bending genres, Williams seems a poet foremost, but also a talented rapper and musician. While his albums are rooted in the beats and politics of hip-hop, he also mixes heavy rock samplings in with fervent slam poetry and a bit of reggae consciousness.

The Marquee recently caught up with Williams, who elaborated on how all of these elements support each other in his work.
“I blend genres not just for the sake of blending genres. I believe that as a people we are a hybrid people … black and white don’t begin to express the sort of people that we actually are, and neither do terms like ‘rock’ or ‘hip-hop.’ The fact that I may have a taste for rock might surprise people, or the fact that I have a taste for poetry might surprise people, but my music is a reflection of every aspect of my upbringing. The widest audience I’m trying to reach is simply every aspect of myself. The goal is not reaching out, the goal is reaching in,” he said.

Fame on the spoken word circuit in the mid-Nineties led Williams to the lead role in the independent film Slam, winner of the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, and Williams’ vehicle for more widespread recognition. His much-anticipated debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, was produced by Rick Rubin and released in 2001. It was honest and critical to its core, and many hip-hop purists found it difficult to stomach Williams’ brutal assessment of the current state of the scene. His second full-length album, 2004’s Saul Williams, mixes many different sounds and features collaborations with rock heavyweights Serj Tankian (System of a Down) and Zack De La Rocha (Rage Against the Machine).

His most recent release, 2007’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, is garnering attention for multiple reasons. Firstly, Williams decided to release it in the style of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, available for free download or for a nominal fee (which would pay for a higher sound quality as well as extensive album artwork). Secondly, the collaboration with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor provides the spoken word artist with punk and industrial undertones, resulting in a very powerful assault on the system. Many consider it his most epic work to date.

“The new album is a concept album, in the voice of a character. That’s not to say that Saul Williams isn’t present in the process, but the first point of departure is that it’s in character. In the last album (Saul Williams) I was fully myself.”

The stage show will also reflect this concept and will involve a much more theatrical element than is typical of a Saul Williams performance.

“[On this tour] I am finding the freedom to step outside the box that people put me in. It allows people to see me in a different light. Sometimes, we just have to invite people out of the box,” Williams said.

:: Saul Williams ::
:: Colorado State University :: April 20 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: April 21 ::

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  1. Today is Sat. the 19th, Saul Williams is to play tomorrow night on the Colorado State University…but where on campus? The liberal arts department this morning said they know nothing about it, the drama dept. the same…so how far underground is this going to be? I would think that someone would know where we can find the show. I don’t want to miss it. Please help if you know email me…