Saul WilliamsIn electronic, Hip Hop
“Forging connections between activism and art” – BBC
“The modern-day Renaissance man who is redefining hacker culture” – Tribeca
“Few have tackled the intersection of identity and expression quite like Saul Williams” – CNN
Musician, poet, rapper, writer, actor, and activist Saul Williams brings his words back to music with the anticipated release of his new album, MartyrLoserKing.
A thinly veiled concept album carved from the tales of its central character, MartyrLoserKing – the screen name of a hacker living in Burundi – the album also serves as a work of action: Re-rooting discussions of globalization, gender, identity and technology in the world of the 1%: the ones at the top and the ones at the bottom.
Weaving his passionate discourse through many strands of popular culture, Williams first introduced the album by releasing the track “All Coltrane Solos at Once (feat. Haleek Maul)”. Accompanying the track was an essay, “an annotated middle finger”, which admonishes the perils of race and income as social constructs:
“What is the perspective of those who “#staywoke”, who resist? It is a mixture of seeing through the lies and deception used to keep common folk, the non-questioning/active participants, in a state that defeats the commoner with hopes of one day entering the elitist 1% while killing unions and widening the wealth gap, and the desire to engage more people to speak up and out against the powers that be.
To the powers that be, we say “fuck u” and to those who, like police, follow orders, fight or work to maintain a system that does not keep their best interest, nor the overwhelming majority’s, at heart, we say “understand me.”
This paved the way for the album’s first two videos, “Burundi” and “Horn of the Clock-Bike”, each a continuation of the other, with Williams at the fore. Described as “protest in motion” by Stereogum, “Burundi” features Warpaint’s Emily Kokal and was directed by Rwandan filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza. Williams addresses the camera head-on as political imagery builds around him.
He said of the concept:
“Never did I imagine that the release of “Burundi”, the first song recorded for the album, would coincide with democratic unrest in Burundi as their president attempt[ed] to rewrite their constitution to run for a third term. My hope is that this song and songs like it give the protesters the fuel they need to overcome over-militarized police & power-hungry politicians.
I want the politicians, police, and all who stand in the face of democracy with overzealous self-interest to know that their candle is burning at both ends and that the collective WE will never be silenced, and the more they try, the more our voices will be heard. The technology of awareness is solar powered and cannot be turned off.”
Written and recorded between Senegal, Reunion Island, Paris, Haiti, and New Orleans and New York, MartyrLoserKing is a multimedia project that engages the digital dialogue between the First and Third Worlds, and the global street sounds that yoke the two. Williams cites Beyoncé, Fredo Santana, and Haitian field recordings as musical inspirations for his fifth album, straining trap hi-hats and mbira strokes together for a nuanced, entirely original sound.
Williams has been breaking ground since the 2001 release of his debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, which was executive produced by Rick Rubin. He has performed in over 30 countries and read in over 300 universities, with invitations that have spanned from the White House, the Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Center, The Louvre, The Getty Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, to countless villages, townships, community centers, and prisons across the world.
The Newburgh, New York native gained a BA from Morehouse and an MFA from Tisch, and has gone on to record with Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsburg and has performed in numerous film and television roles. In 2014, he starred in the Tupac Shakur-inspired Broadway musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me.The announcement of MartyrLoserKing follows a new world tour and to-be-announced collaborations with several artists, producers and writers. It’s slated for release on January 29, 2016 on FADER Label / Caroline International.