Beast Banner March 2007
ISSUE #114
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Features

ArrowSchlep Boys
Failing forward in one act

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Britney Budget
Matt Taibbi

ArrowEeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
Blogger and journalist Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog on the hijacking of democracy and more

ArrowObama
The best BS artist since Slick Willy

Matt Taibbi

ArrowSweet Nothings
Lies my paper told me

Allan Uthman

ArrowMenace in Seat 36F
Based on a True Story

Michael J. Smith

ArrowBEAST gets poetic on dat ass!
Saul Williams schools us on Hip Hop and our choice of lunch

ArrowCelebrity Buttholes Will Be the End of Us
A. Monkey

ArrowThe BEAST Melanin / Electability Index

ArrowThe Truth Spin
Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy

Allan Uthman

ArrowTV Highlights
CBSs Numb3rs signals the end of the end of the American Empire

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Departments
ArrowKino Korner: Movies
The Abandoned, Wild Hogs, The Number 23, Zodiac, Reno 911!: Miami, Amazing Grace, Black Snake Moan, Shooter, The Astronaut Farmer, Inland Empire

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
The Pussy of the Christ, How Great We Art, Dumb Shit, PhD, All You Need is Loathe and more

 

BEAST gets poetic
on dat ass!
Saul Williams schools us on Hip Hop
and our choice of lunch

Saul Williams is a poet and musician who rose to fame in the NYC slam poetry scene. He has performed with Allen Ginsberg, KRS-One, and many others. Rick Rubin produced his first album, Amethyst Rock Star, and his forthcoming album is being produced by Trent Reznor. Williams is also an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the so-called War on Terror. His newest collection of poetry is The Dead Emcee Scrolls. We spoke with him during his recent spoken word tour.

BEAST: In another interview, you criticized the current state of hip hop as a microcosm of the problems in our society as a whole. What do you see as a positive next step in those spheres?

Saul Williams: It’s not so much a criticism as an observation – that gangsterism has been running the country at the same time that gangsterism has been running hip hop. We’ve had misplaced values in how we think we should be run as a nation and the same misplaced values are what we’ve responded to in music.

Where are we headed? You can look at what’s happening in either forum – whether that’s Barack Obama and Hilary on the ticket or whether that’s MIA or TV on the Radio on a CD. It’s evolving because of itself and despite of itself.

B: Why isn’t there a table of contents in your new book?

SW: There’s no real reason. I’ve thought about it, but if I did that I’d have to name the poems, and half the book is journal entries. I like having things that don’t have titles remain that way.

B: You started off as a spoken word artist and poet –

SW: Well I started off rhyming, as a rapper. Poetry was the last thing that I discovered. I started off rhyming, writing songs, and acting. Eventually I stumbled upon poetry.

B: I meant recording albums. Weren’t you approached to make your first album after a poetry reading?

SW: I definitely started recording music after I was writing poetry. But the first things I ever wrote, when I first sat down to write something at eight or nine years old, were songs. Rap songs. Verse, chorus, verse. The first things I wrote were songs; it took me a minute to remember that. And once I got to writing poetry, that led me back to creating music. For one, with that state of disillusion with the current state of hip hop instead of being a critic I was trying to fill that void in between what I was hearing and what I wished I was hearing. And secondly, I had heard some really inspiring music around that time that made me realize that I could do something different: Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, Bjork, drum n bass, Goldie, and that whole world. It opened me up because I saw all of that as hip hop and/or in very close relation to hip hop. Opening my mind up to what was happening here as well as elsewhere gave me a lot of new ideas.

The first song I recorded was for a compilation called Lyricist Lounge, this track called Ohm. We started playing with the drum beat, speeding it up and slowing it down and I realized that I could do anything if I divorced myself from the idea of doing what was expected to be done in hip hop. I realized that what really moved me in hip hop was when people did the unexpected. Public Enemy was unexpected. A Tribe Called Quest, that second album, The Low End Theory, was completely unexpected. So I just started challenging myself to do the unexpected, and I’ve done a lot of fun stuff as a result.

B: Your last three books were published by MTV Books, a Viacom subsidiary. What’s the deal with that?

SW: We’re living in a state of emergency. Poetry is seen as a peripheral art form. When I had my first book of poetry I had to decide between a book company that was credible for poetry and a book company that could reach the demographic of my peers. And …well, why not? I’ve got a great lawyer, and here’s the thing: With all the sharks that I’ve dealt with, in music and film and so on, these books that are published by MTV /Viacom –it’s not like the head of Viacom is reading my books. I actually dissed him in my book. I have never, ever, ever been told to change a single word. Everything that I’ve ever wanted to publish on page has come out exactly as I wanted it. S/he, said the shotgun to the head, and now The Dead Emcee Scrolls are exactly how I wanted them done. I can’t say the same for Amethyst Rock Star. I can say the same for the second album because I did it independently, but what I did through music channels in the industry, I had people asking me and expecting me to compromise every step of the way. So, I have nothing negative to say about this.

For example, we had it put in the contract that we would do commercials for the book that would run on MTV. I have been fully supported there, which is not to say that that makes them… whatever. But it does say that the powers that be don’t have as much power as the power of being. And big ol’ corporations don’t mean shit, because they’re controlled by individuals. It’s just like The Wizard of Oz, or The Wiz, the man behind the curtain …but if you find the courage and the strength to approach that so-called man behind the curtain and look him in his eyes, you do what needs to be done. Bob Dylan hasn’t put out any independent albums, and I don’t really feel that he’s compromised. Do you?

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