Saul Williams is a poet, singer, songwriter, and actor.
I first heard of him when he was on the Colbert Report supporting Holler If You Hear Me - a Broadway play that only lasted six weeks. I was interested to see how he would incorporate more modern rap and trap sounds as his last album came out five years ago.
“Groundwork,” the first song on the album starts with this vocal sample that gets slightly annoying as it keeps going, fortunately it fades out when the rest of the instruments appear. the drums don’t come in during his verse, but after he says "groundwork." The lead synth is pretty haunting especially when it goes up an octave. “Horn Of The Clock Bike” is probably my favorite song on the album, I love the piano loop used as a motif. The transition at about 1:30, where the wubby bass comes in threw me off because I was originally expecting something more like a tuned 808 bass. Saul’s rhythm as he delivers the lyrics makes the words essentially come alive.
“The Bear/Coltan as Cotton” is the first time that the main hacking idea of the entire album is brought up. He slams over the beat saying “hack into” and the things like violence, fear, and violence. It feels a little strange that he is talking about hacking into things that are much more physical than digital. I understand the idea, but it just seems a strange word to use. “Burundi” hasa massive amount energy, and conjures up the image of the hacker that Saul is talking about, running from the authorities. “The Noise Came From Here” has a pretty striking music video set in Ferguson, Missouri.
On “All Coltrane Solos At Once” the line “To imagine Hell is a privilege” caught my ear. Other than that the whole repetition of “Fuck you, Understand me” anchors the song. “Homes/Drones/Poems/Drums” speaks to the fear people have of drones, the last line “The word became the sound and the police of the matter shot him down,” the him most likely being the hacker that we have followed on this album.
This album was not what I expected in the least bit, sonically. I was thinking from the cover art and the name it would sound something like Señorita by Vince Staples. It was still dark and haunting like I expected just not in the way I believed it would. Saul shined on some songs, specifically “Groundwork,” ”Horn Of The Clock Bike,” “Burundi,” and “All Coltrane Solos At Once.” He actually has all of the handwritten lyrics available in a pdf and it is cool to see the words written down in that fashion. This album was challenging and enjoyable in its own right.
by Addison Garry (@addisonagarry)