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Saul Williams Interview Part 2


17 April 2003 No Comment

Part 2 of the Saul Williams Interview

Will you be writing or doing any more movies in the future?

I have a film project I have been working on for years, I’m not really tied into the concept of doing something just cause your hot right now. I feel that if it is something that is well written, there will be a space for it. So even though I don’t know the time frame for it, I’m just taking my time and writing and we’ll see what happens. As for acting I’ve just been auditioning for a few things.

What is your criteria for parts?

I read the script, I look at the character they are asking me to play and what type of relevance he has to the story, then I look at the relevance the film has on society, is it a story that id like to be a part of. Not necessarily if it’s a story that needs to be told but if I want to have a part in telling it.
I don’t necessarily have to be the good guy or the bad guy. But I am concerned if it’s falling into clichés, or bullshit. If it perpetuates the nonsense that I’m opposed to, then I don’t want to be a part of it. I have a quote from Henry Davis Therou which says “Most of all, I must see to it that I do not lend myself to the evils which I condemn

How has the response been to Slam, particularly within the industry?

We got a lot of respect in the industry…we won Sundance and Slam, which means Slam was recognized as the best film for 1998. The other film that came out that year was Titanic. It cost 200 million dollars to make Titanic, which means they could have made 400 Slam’s for the cost of that one movie. Ain’t that a bitch?

[laughing] No doubt. We’ve had ongoing respect from the industry as well as the fans. I mean I don’t think that all people from all movies get people walking up to them and saying “thank you“, and that’s the blessing that I have. People come up to me saying thank you and sharing with me how it changed their life and made them think….made them start writing poetry.

Having done Slam, a low budget project that still came off phenomenally well, what is your take on the new blaxploitation wave of hip hop movies we’re experiencing?

It is what it is. It’s what people choose to associate their art with. More power to them…. or should I say less power to them [laughs] I don’t have any harsh judgements, it is what it is. Sometimes its funny, sometimes it’s not.

Do you think hip-hop can be preserved through college courses? Or do you think that’s exploitive?

I don’t think that it’s exploitive at all. Hip hop is not necessarily about being poverty stricken, its foolish to think you can only understand hip hop if you grew up in the projects and the ghetto. The message today is that hip-hop is far larger than the black experience, I have seen emcees in France, Germany, Australia…..
I think in some ways its necessary to have the academic aspect of hip-hop and I don’t think that it takes away from it at all.

What is your opinion of the whole baby momma, baby daddy syndrome?

Being a guy who has two baby’s mothers or the new term I’ve heard “significant mothers“. It’s a reality, I don’t think in terms of like families that are not together should be considered broken families; there are evolved definitions of family and togetherness these days. Now as far as Redman saying I’m about to have your baby momma running out for condoms, that’s unnecessary….witty, but unnecessary. Hip-hop reflects reality in a lot of ways and that sometimes is the reality.

Why did you move from Brooklyn to LA?

Because my babies mother [laughter] she moved to LA and I didn’t want to be an absentee dad or not be there for my daughter. So I moved here as well so that I could be close to her and be a part of her life.

That’s Saturn right? Why did you name your daughter Saturn? Isn’t that a masculine roman name?

Yes, Saturn is my daughter, my son is Xuly. Sa (prefix of Saturn) means seven, Saturn used to be believed to be the seventh planet, and Saturn is the only planet in our solar system that could exist outside of our solar system. The center of Saturn is so hot, that it exists as if it had its own sun, the reason being is that it’s center is composed of what quantum physics calls chaos matter or dark matter which in our ozone layer is called melanin. Saturn is made of pure melanin. I’ve always considered Saturn the birthplace of my imagination. I think imagination is one of the most important things that we have to create in our children.
The power of imagination is the power of envisioning our reality, so when some emcees talk about keeping it real and all that shit I’m like keep it imaginative, keep exploring the imaginative aspects of reality. If it weren’t for science fiction writers imagining cell phones and the Internet, science would have never created it. The power of imagination is the resting point of modern society. You understand what I’m saying.

Your daughter and son….what will you do as a parent to help them understand not just hip-hop but the world in general?

All I do on a regular basis is play with them. We play [laughs] I teach them how to read, I expose them to good music and good books, interesting conversations, good company, good films, and we just keep on moving.

Who do you listen to musically?

I listen to a lot of Fela, last night we listened to Minnie Rippertons album Perfect Angel, which is her first solo album, I listen to a lot of rock, pop, hip hop, all types of stuff. We listen to a lot of Hendricks, foreign stuff. My daughter prefers to just listen to Michael Jackson.
Tricky is probably one of my biggest musical influences of the past decade. Its Tricky who made me want to record an album. Because I had thought of emceeing in only one way, then I heard Tricky and like listened to him doing remixes of Slick Rick and the Public Enemy shit, and just listening to all the ways in which he created beats. Also with Massive attack, the stuff he was doing with Bjork, Portishead. It’s the whole trip hop shit that really encouraged me to do an album.

Did you study poetry?

No…..well I can’t really say no, I studied Shakespeare. A great deal of Shakespeare. My masters is in acting, and we spent a lot of time on Shakespeare. Indirectly I have studied poetry; I have never taken a poetry course. But I taught them.

What was it like working w/ Rick Ruben?

It was cool. He wasn’t there while we were recording the album; he came in while we were mixing it.

I thought he did the music?

No I did the music.

Why did I think he did the music, it says here produced by Rick Rubin?

It wasn’t produced in the hip-hop sense; it was produced in the rock sense. In the rock world a producer does not write the songs, none of Jimi Hendricks albums were produced by him but he write everything, he wrote all of his music. In the rock world the producer is just there to help you implement the sound that you’re aiming for, that’s the type of producer Rick is. It’s not like in hip-hop, if I was produced by premier that would mean premier made the beat. But that’s not how it happened, I made all the music.

So how did you come to write the liner notes for D’Angelos album?

Through friends of friends, I met his manger and him. We wanted to do something. Dangelo had a vision for that album and how he wanted to put it out there in the historical content. I spent time in the studio; it was a beautiful experience.

It’s a beautiful album, we’ve both said it’s an album you put on repeat on a night of making love. I was really disappointed with the success of D’angleos album

The mainstream is so fickle in the way it shifts and turns, we really have no control, all we can do is keep creating and hope that people experience the glory of the music. We just have to create and continue making our offerings. Think of santana, it wasn’t like to two years ago that he started getting all this recognition, and he’s had over 15 albums out before now.

What do you think of the whole, poetry explosion Def Poetry thing?

Poetry has been exploding for a long time. But it’s cool…..I’m glad people are able to experience and hear the things that are coming out all over the country, the exposure is a great opportunity

What was your inspiration for “Fearless”?

I wrote a book called She and it was about this relationship I was in that was ending, “Fearless” is pretty much the musical companion to that book. It was just about not being afraid to end a relationship when it was time to, and not being afraid to redefine my relationship to myself. To allow myself go through changes.
A lot of us don’t allow things to change; in fact we hate change. We like stability. It was just an anthem for me to feel comfortable changing.

What’s your favorite song on the Amethyst Rock Star?

“Coded Language”….”1987″….I don’t know. Because live… it’s a whole different thing, I think live it would have to be “Our Father”.

That was your Dad on “Our Father” right? What’s it like growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid)?

[laughs] When I was growing up….to be the son of a minister was to be the son of royalty. Whenever there was a function, we were like the royal family, especially when it’s a big church. It was exposure to a lot of different aspect of our culture. There was definitely the religious aspect of it, of an African American culture; it was a beautiful experience. I don’t go to church regularly now, but I would not complain about the fact that I went as a child.
A lot of my pk friend have love/hate relationships with their fathers, especially the ones who are artists.
I’ve been through times when I was fighting with my father. When I started learning about all of these different things that bought me to a world that was much larger than the world of Christianity that I lived in as a child, I came back to my dad with tons of questions and accusations. What happened to bible was it was butchered by the Roman Catholic Church, this is the bible you’re bringing to me? He reacted defensively so we went through that fighting stage. But now it’s peaceful, I think he now respects where I’m coming from and respect the difference. I’ve actually learned to respect what he does with time as well.

On “Coded Language” you mentioned Rumi and Khalil Gibran two of my favorite writers.

Have you read Hafiz? Go get Hafiz “The Gift”, that will set your world on fire in the most amazing way. Rumi and Hafiz are two of the most amazing poets. I quote khalil Gibran in “Fearless”

I am a poet who composes what the world proses and proses what the world composes.”

Its from The Spiritual Sayings or Thoughts and Meditations by Khalil Gibran

Your recommended reading?

Octavia Butler……anything by her. African American science fiction writer, really amazing. The finished road by Ben Okri. What else? Autobiography of Miles Davis, a book called Paul Roberson Speaks.



So then the question becomes, what role does hip hop play in the future of language? Or rather, what role does the future of language play in hip-hop? There does seem to have been a lyrical evolution in hip-hop. Vivid, descriptive narratives of ghetto life seem to have come at the cost of imaginative or psycho-spiritual exploration. In other words, niggas have come up with amazing ways to talk about the same old shit. The problem is, when we recite the same old shit into microphones, which increase sound vibration the same old shit continues to manifest in our daily lives. But of course employing one’s imagination is problematic when the aim is to keep it real.”
Saul Williams

Saul’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Esquire, Time Magazine, Elle, Details, Detour, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe, Essence, Source, Rolling Stone, and countless other periodicals.
His latest book of poetry, She, was published by MTV/ Pocketbooks and is now in it’s third printing. His first book, The Seventh Octave, was published by Moore Black Press. Saul is also featured in a number of poetry anthologies: Listen Up! (Ballantine), Catch The Fire, (Putnam), Slam, In Defense of Mumia (Harlem River Press).
Saul has performed all around the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and Japan. He has been featured at the Whitney Museum (NY); the New Museum (NY) Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Arts, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Stockholm, Sweden. His poetry has been added into the curriculum at a number of universities and high schools across the country where he has been asked to recite his work, lecture, and/or teach workshops, including: New York University, American University, MorehouseCollege, Oberlin, the New School, George Washington University, Cornell University, and Harvard.
His music has been featured on a number of CD’s, including: Lyricist Lounge, the Slam soundtrack (w/KRS One), Black Whole Styles (Ninja Tunes), Eargasms (Mercury), and Krust’s Coded Language (Talkin’ Loud).

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