Some photos from Saul Williams’ set and a link to a review by one of my editors. I was lucky to get a press pass for this gig and I hope I did it justice with a few of these images.
When I was in college, a few of my friends discovered that you could transfer music files to one another via AOL Instant Messenger. At the time, this was ground breaking. You could actually access your friend’s music library and download whatever you wanted. Granted it took hours to download a single song sometimes, but this was the early days of online music discovery.
One of my friends had an extensive hip-hop collection and he had mentioned a slam poet by the name of Saul Williams to me before. I had no idea what Saul Williams sounded like and at the time my knowledge of hip hop was in its infancy.
On first listen, I didn’t know what to make of him. He was aggressive, blunt, rhythmic and not what I thought hip hop music was. To me, hip hop was what I heard on the radio, or had watched on MTV when I was in high school, musicians talking about money and partying to catchy four-four beats and some funky sounds.
I didn’t know that hip-hop could still be as culturally or politically aware as he was or that you could have just spoken word poetry sound as fierce as an NWA record.
The way that Saul Williams speaks to his listeners allows people like me, white and middle class, to understand aspects of the zeitgeist and the history of injustice in the world around us in a way that previously was inaccessible given our background.
In the current politically charged and racially aware climate, Williams’ set was painfully too appropriate and unironic as he was surrounded by the walls of an auditorium named after a famous, aristocratic slave trader.
He spoke for the underdogs and the under served and that theme transcends color and that’s why I was attracted to his music and poetry nearly ten years ago. Introduced to the real injustices perpetrated by the world, I felt a new sense of self awareness and greater awareness to the world around me.
Published on B247