25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2005
Saul Williams has now perfected his craft with a breath-taking 12 tracks of heart-felt straight from the main vein poetry. Painted raggedly but purposefully across a myriad canvas of moving, dramatic pianos, from-the-gut reckless and anarchistic punk, and an incredible, emotive representation of pure hip-hop beats - from the most ragged downtuned crunchingly distorted amens (Notice To Eviction) to the most subtly produced ultra smooth slow-burning beats of 'PG' - every single moment has a sound that resonates with a feeling of both accidental discovery and total devoted intent, a true mark of genius: Saul Williams effortlessly creates the most deep, dense atmospheres and sustains their extreme emotional intensity for such lenghts I never though possible... the build up of the heart-wrenchingly honest (and heart-poundingly brave) Black Stacey is something majestic to behold - the first time I heard it i thought it would be an instrumental track, and would still stand up as such. But the impact of the beat combined with the change in tone of the lyrics half-way through make it an unforgettable moment, an unforgettable track: a true realisation of the power of hip-hop that hasn't been shouted loud enough by an american voice since Dead Prez's 'Let's Get Free'.
And like that landmark, the true power of Williams' new album (while backed up by original production that fuses who knows how many styles, many of them his own, to again create something new) lies in the lyrics.
For anyone who has heard Williams' first album release, Amethyst Rockstar, or any guest appearances on tracks for the likes of Blackalicious or Dilated Peoples will know that his lyrics and delivery are a universe away from the likes of 50 Cent, the Game... anyone who supposedly represents the 'true' hip-hop, those reputedly 'keepin it real' (or keepin it gangsta, whatever, i'm sure in their eyes there is little difference). In fact it is those who promote and the process itself of the perversion of hip-hop, that art form that found freedom and a voice for alot of disadvantaged and frankly opressed black youth in America into exactly that which it supposedly was a rebellion against, a reaction to. Every artist with bling, diamond teeth, any of them you've wanted to shout at for having no shame in openly declaring they only care about their status and wealth... they and the violent, ugly world they have created and are continuing to create are the focus for the rage and intent of this album. Whats makes it so satisfying is that Williams encapsulates everything there is to hate about todays multi-million dollar hip-hop/rnb pop industry and twists a metaphor round it, leaving an image that is almost a reflection of it as it truly is... and done with such succinct aplomb, such surety and confidence that there is a moral line being crossed it inspires both awe in the artist and hope for the future. There are so many examples, but they're best experienced with the music created for them.
go on and on, even write a gushing review track by track but I'm still only taking this all in myself: its the feeling you get when you're looking at something so complex and beautiful that you know its too much to take in at once, there are layers of meaning and feeling that will only become apparant the more it is studied, like any good poetry i guess. You wanna give it the appropriate time, the proper respect. Instead I'll finish by saying obviously I was blown away by this album and would recomend it to anyone with a even a vague interest in or agreement with anything Saul stands for. But that doesn't stop me objectively believing that time will show this to album to be an important step foward in challenging the entrenchment of shameful ethical standards in our current 'urban pop' industry, as well as a landmark in the man's career, and a life changing event for some of us waiting for these words to be released from our collective unconscious all our lives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2005
This is Saul's latest album but don't be expecting production similar to that of it's predecessor 'Amethyst Rockstar' because this is a completely different album. In my opinion it's just as good as the other for different reasons with some production from 'Serj Tankien' of 'System Of A Down' and more collaboration with 'Zach De La Rocha' of former band 'Rage Against The Machine'. Expect quite a rock feel to this album but don't be fooled this is Hip-Hop the tracks express a range of melodic and frantic emmotion with very experimental dark beats going down. From the instrumental opening track "Talk To Strangers" to the reggae style "Black Stacey" Saul delivers his raw diverse style straight from his soul using originality and ingenuity of an iconic degree that mainstream artists could only dream of. Personally I strongly advise this album to listeners of Hip-Hop with a free thinking mind that are into a diverse range of experimental music because this album is DEEP!! I truly look up to this artist he is a great mentor!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2005
I first herd Saul Williams when he was supporting NIN on a UK tour and, to be honest, I didn't know what to expect and was slightly sceptical.... However, I was so impressed with what I herd, I ordered the CD that night.
It's been a long time since I've herd an album, from any genre of music, that was, in my opinion, really special. With his thought provoking, and inspiring lyrics; eclectic rhythms and beats, Saul Williams really is a breath of fresh air for the music industry.
It would be hard to categorise this album and that's one of the many qualities that I liked about it.
If, like me, you're fed up with uninspiring, uninteresting music being pumped out by the majority of musicians and groups, the only advice I can give is to purchase this album and see what you think. After a few listens, I challenge anyone to honestly say they don't like it. Many of my friends are slaves to the pop music industry. Even so, I don't know a single person who doesn't like, at least, the majority of this album.
on 26 June 2007
Okay, perhaps not for everyone's taste, but this is a refreshing antidote to the commercial mess that 'hip hop' has become. Along with The Coup, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique and a few others, Saul Williams has succeeded in resisting the tendency to 'sell out' (a rare accusation these days, as so many have done). Although I agree to a degree with the reviewer who criticised the 'unpolished' feel of some of the production, isn't that what hip hop was always about? If you are looking for a bubbly, idiotic, moronic corporate puppet, look elsewhere. If you are looking for intelligent, soulful hip hop, (and probably if, like me, you grew up with 1980s and early 1990s hip hop) you can't go wrong with this.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2006
Coming at you straight from the left field, actor, screenwriter, poet and part-time musician Williams' second album has more in common with the scrapbook post-punk experimentalism of TV on the Radio or Le Tigre than Hip-Hop. No doubt Williams himself would have it that way, as he goes to great pains to disassociate himself with the latter genre (or perhaps, more specifically, its commerical trappings) throughout this album. Saul Williams keeps his lyrical pencil sharp from beginning to end, with a battery of rhymes and spoken-word musings that range from scathing to unflinchingly honest and self deprecating ('Black Stacey' for example has the poet talk about a childhood racked with insecurities and a shaky racial identity). Unfortunately, the power of his spoken and written word is rendered largely impotent by the music. Sometimes, the experimentations work (List of Demands, Act 3 Scene 2, Telegram and the afforementioned Black Stacey), but mostly, they don't. His fondness for rock-tinged jams does lend the album's better moments a pleasantly refreshing air, but for the most part, Saul Williams (the album, that is) sounds sparse to the point of being under-developed, which is a real shame as Williams is an excellent lyricist/poet. (Perhaps for his third album, he should leave the music production duties to someone who knows how to use their equipment properly). To quote Williams on opener 'Talk To Strangers'; "There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come". Sadly, Saul Williams still has some waiting to do.