Saul Williams is a renaissance man. He became known to hip-hop heads from his joint “Ohm” on Lyricist’s Lounge comp. He has starred in the award winning movie Slam, and is a published author with his most recent being ‘said the shotgun’ to the head’. I got a few minutes with Saul to talk about his new album and other things.
How is this new self titled release different that Amethyst Rock Star?
It’s much more song driven. The first one was more beats with poetry. This one is really about the songs. There is very little actual poetry on the album most of the album I wrote the music first.
You produced most of the songs yourself, what did you use?
Yamaha EX5, MPC and I recorded on a Roland VS1680. I wanted it to sound live. So some of it I would record the vocals while the music was blasting in the background so it had a live feel.
The press release said the album took only 10 days to record.
Yeah, that’s kind of bullshit.
Yeah. I was only in the studio for 10 days that’s true. I wrote maybe one song in the studio and everything else I dumped down from my equipment at home and fixed it up in the studio.
Serj from System of a Down is involved in one track, how did that come about?
He is a friend and about maybe a year ago he was like “Saul i’d like to collaborate with you sometime,” and he came up with this track. He gave it to me right at the last minute. I was in the studio, it was during those 10 days. It ended up being the first song “Talk To Strangers”. I was like oh my god, because I was trying to find an introduction and I thought it was beautiful.
What’s your writing process? Do you just sit down and write?
I write different ways different times. I keep a journal. Sometimes music gives me an idea, sometimes a conversation, other times its some kind of an emotional crisis where I need to write.
I heard you are working on a play. How is that coming along?
Its coming slowly but surely. I’m taking my time with it. A one man show. Its about hip-hop and our generation.
How do you feel about hip-hop right now?
You’re happy with it?
Yeah, my whole thing has been about the balance. Well, granted we went through a wack period. But its not like that shit shouldn’t be out as long as there is balance out there. There is a certain part of hiphop that is under represented. I came from the ghetto too. There are tons of kids like me in society, African American kids from the ghetto that are choosing not to be thugs. I just feel under represented.
Have you ever considered being less esoteric and being more straight forward to get your messages out there to the youth?
I never really made a decision to be esoteric. It’s just I am who I am. But with this album I tried to not go to the point of overboard. I choose to have fun. Songs like “Grippo” and “Black Stacy” are first takes. It was like “I’m going to write this real quick”.
Why did you decide to publish your book through MTV books?
I choose to publish through MTV because of there demographic. I’m trying to reach people. They don’t give a fuck about what my book says. They don’t ask me to change anything. They gave me opportunities like doing a commercial and putting on the station. It gives me an opportunity to actually reach and infiltrate the mainstream without compromising my beliefs or my writing in any way.
What is your opinion on freedom in america? It seems like at times we have so much but we don’t take advantage of it.
I think we are more loose than free. Kind of like a dog on a chain playing in the yard. He thinks he is free but if he gets too far he feels this tug on the chain and is told to come back. I do think with kind of overlook our responsibilities that come with the power that we have. I think the freedom is there to experience but what I think most people associate with freedom in this nation is comfort. It’s not really freedom. There is also a great deal of fear in going beyond a certain point and a great deal of selfishness and not realizing that your comfort comes at the cause of others discomfort.
If you could recommend a book to somebody reading this, what would you suggest?
It depends on the person and what they are experiencing in life. I just read this book that I love called The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Its about the wife of a man who time travels. It’s a love story but its not sci fi. Its beautiful. I’ve been on the last couple pages for the past few days because I don’t want it to end.
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