The idea of being insane.
Was to speak out
over the drumbeat.
It is okay to be insane.
Saul Williams on Sway in tHE MORNING
I first heard Saul Williams in 2004 around the release of his eponymous album. I remember where (the Bleak House Books office), I remember the volume (loud), but mostly what I remember is not having the ability to fully process what I was hearing because it was so unlike anything else I’d ever heard. With every second that passed, I could feel my DNA evolving in real time.
It’s inevitable if you listen to Williams that you will learn things about history, about the present, about the future. You will learn something about yourself and your place in the universe. You will be challenged by the mirror he holds up to us all.
His 2016 concept album MartyrLoserKing made my Best Albums of the Decade list. The MartyLoserKing title character is a hacker in Burundi who becomes famous before becoming labeled a terrorist. What genre is it? Yes. I don’t know either. But I think it captures a pivotal moment and momentum of our world with an urgency rarely approached by other artists across all disciplines. And that’s relevant here, because Williams switches between music and books and film with artistic ambidexterity. If you want a quick three song introduction to the album, here’s Mr. Williams on NPR’s venerable Tiny Desk Concert Series.
But what I wanted to most share tonight was a story he tells in this interview. Start with the part about artists working in darkness and listen through to the part about Columbus. Can you imagine what that would have been like? That really struck me. Could such a thing happen today? Will it happen in the future when we wrangle the ability to move through time and space in ways we haven’t yet conceived?