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Saul Williams Live Set + Interview by Jive Mag



?Man, this love of hip-hop is like investing in a martial relationship, way past its prime, simply for the sake of the children, not realizing that we are actually f*cking up their entire conception of relationships. They will be forced to work it out for the rest of their lives, falling in and out of love. I?ve outgrown you? (144). -From The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop by Saul Williams
Award-winning screenwriter/actor and MC, Saul Williams is o­ne of the most influential and important poets around. While Hip-Hop has grown stagnate, the poets of the spoken word movement shake off the industry constraints and openly bring light to the injustices that are currently taking place. o­n the other hand, rather than providing a voice of defiance, Hip-Hop now mirrors society. As the author of The Dead Emcee Scrolls, Saul identifies with the artistic struggles that come with enforcing categorical restrictions. ?I Used To Love H.E.R.? by Common is just o­ne example of Hip-Hop being compared to a significant other, but if this love for this significant other does go through peaks and valleys like a relationship past its prime, maybe more artists should take a page out of Saul?s poetry and outgrow a relationship that has distorted everyone?s perception of what Hip-Hop is. Recently, JIVE Magazine was able to catch up with Saul to gain insight o­n what he feels the next 10 years of Hip-Hop will bring, the importance of the spoken word movement, his collaboration with Trent Reznor, and what needs to take place for Hip-Hop to be resurrected.

JIVE MAGAZINE: Recently the Wake Up Show had a clip show dedicated to conscious artists. They played a clip of you speaking o­n how you heard in Public Enemy in 1998 and looked forward to what the next 10 years would bring, and then 10 years later you heard Jay-Z rhyming jigga what. Since you have seen this progression away from lyricism over the last decade, what do you think the next 10 years will bring?

Saul Williams: Well I don?t know what the next 10 years of Hip-Hop will bring but I think the next 10 years of music will bring a lot more experimentation. I think you will find a lot more freedom of expression from urban areas. I think we have run out of stupid sh*t to do, so we can o­nly do smart sh*t [laughs]. Everyone is kind of expanding their vocabulary. Jay-Z is working with Chris Martin from Coldplay trying to write a more profound album about his past and show while showing his vulnerability. As MCs we have done all of the crazy sh*t; the o­nly thing we haven?t done is commit ourselves to grow through the music. I was thinking about Jay-Z yesterday and that verse where he says he rapes Def Jam, and I saw a commercial for the HP computer where he says he wants to be a role model and a rock star, and I immediately thought about that verse. Unfortunately, you can?t rape a record industry as an artist without raping our community because the community and the children within it are so fixated o­n music. You can see straight up how our society has followed what is happening in the songs. There should be no question about the power of music, and I think that cats are slowly starting to figure that out. Maybe enough drug dealers have used Hip-Hop to clean their money, and we can start talking about other sh*t now.

JIVE MAGAZINE: Staying with the idea of the media?s relationship with Hip-Hop, this past September ushered in the 10 year anniversary of the death of Tupac. How has the media and Hip-Hop learned from this tragedy?

Saul Williams: Nah. The thing about the media or people learning from the death of Tupac is most legends go down but the thing happening doesn?t teach you without people pointing out what you are supposed to get from it, and no o­ne has really done that. You can tell people haven?t really learned enough from Tupac; I mean look at Hip-Hop. Tupac is the legend that he is because of the amount of passion he put into his work, and you really don?t have MCs putting that level of passion into their work now. They are passionate about making money, but Tupac was about much more than that. People haven?t learned a lot from him because if they did, the game would probably be little different. As far as the media?s role in escalating fires, I don?t know [laughs]. That?s o­n you guys. Every individual in the media is an individual and it?s your voice reporting the news, so if you bow down to much to a boss or an idea of how you are supposed to portray something, that?s o­n the individual.

JIVE MAGAZINE: o­n ?TELEGRAM? from your self-titled album, you address how Hip-Hop has adopted murder and money into its list of elements. When and why do you think it became trendy to be ignorant?

Saul Williams: Hip-Hop is a reflection of society and what has become commonplace is warped values. I well tell you, I was immune to a lot of sh*t that was happening in New York while I was living there in the mid 90s with Jay-Z and Biggie. From the time I heard Biggie say ?get money, make money?, I was like oh boy we are headed in the wrong direction. It?s not ignorant; it?s misdirection. From that point o­n (the Puffy era in Hip-Hop), it all became about misplaced values. There is nothing wrong with getting your money straight, but to put that in the position of being thee most important thing, I think that leads us down the same road that we were bought and sold o­n; that capitalist mentality. Believe me; I am not opposed to money. I make money, but that is not the end point or the beginning point. There has to be a sense of integrity. What happened was many artists said ?f*ck integrity. I am going to do whatever I need to do to get my money right.? And that is how the trend of misdirection took place. As opposed to a trend of ignorance it is a trend of misdirection. So the trend became now you can do whatever for money. Think about it, in the 90s it wasn?t very popular to see groups doing music in commercials especially in the rock world even. You would be considered a sell out if you did that sh*t, and now it is completely acceptable. Like oh sh*t your song is o­n a show. That?s great. Now it is o­n by any means sh*t.

JIVE MAGAZINE: It seems like that has become a staple of success to say ?I got my song o­n an iPod commercial.? It signifies that an artist has made it.

Saul Williams: But the thing is you have to be balanced because there is nothing wrong with that. For instance, you said an iPod commercial. Would I do an iPod commercial? I probably would because I use my iPod every f*cking day. It is a part of my life, but would I do a commercial for something that I don?t drink or believe in that I don?t know. I wouldn?t if I feels it does more harm than good.

JIVE MAGAZINE: THE DEAD EMCEE SCROLLS are about discovering yourself as a poet. Tell me a little bit about what your intentions were for this book?

Saul Williams: That?s what it is all about. It is an artistic book of self discovery. It?s a story that is there to connect the idea of imagination to the outside world and things that have been separated. It is there to inspire and open up the minds of people and make them think ?Wow. Those are things that actually could happen? There are a world of possibilities beyond that which we imagine. That is the intention of the book.

JIVE MAGAZINE: Outside of the world of Hip-Hop, you have toured with groups like the Mars Volta and NIN. Recently Trent Reznor spoke about when you were touring together, he gave you an instrumental CD as he was going out to perform, by the time he came back, you had already written a song. Whereas Trent expressed a struggle to write at times, do you find it easier to get into that poetic zone?

Saul Williams: It?s all about inspiration. The music that Trent has been giving me has been extremely inspiring. If the music wasn?t inspiring, the song wouldn?t have been written. He is producing my album and we are several songs deep into it now. Its not so much a poetic zone as but as living o­nes life as a poem. We are talking about two things here. o­ne hand we are talking about song writing. Can you just make that happen at the snap of a finger? No. It takes inspiration, focus, and discipline. Maybe at this time of day I could get some writing done. I try. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn?t. As far as entering the poetic zone or what have you, o­ne lives o­nes life as a poem. The writing down of sh*t is just the chronicling of thoughts that pass all the time. Poetry is about shifting o­nes perspective, so we don?t just shift our perspective when we write; its when we live, and the writing is a reflection of our living.

JIVE MAGAZINE: There has been a resurgence in the spoken word movement over the last few years. What impact do you think it is having o­n maintaining the culture of Hip-Hop?

Saul Williams: I think that MCs have realized who the lyricists are. That?s why you see Lupe Fiasco and Kanye working with poets, but I think it is short sided if we connect it just to Hip-Hop. Anytime poetry has gotten popular, something major has followed. During the Harlem Renaissance what followed was the Civil Rights Movement. Poetry became popular in the 50?s as Beat poetry and what followed was the hippie movement. Black Power poetry became popular in the 60s and early 70s, and what followed was the black power movement. Any and every time poetry gets popular, it has been followed by a movement. It?s not about the effect it will have o­n the music, but the effect it is going to have o­n the world. And the reason poetry isn?t popular is because the music has stripped itself of poetry but because society has. Remember, Hip-Hop is just a reflection of society. We had gangsters ruin Hip-Hop at the same time the United States had gangsters ruining it. Those six summers that Jay-Z ran are the same six summers that Bush ran. It?s all the same. Bush and 50 Cent have the same birthday(July 6th). It is all in sync. It is a reflection. It is not IT. It can be more if we make it more. It is supposed to be the pligthest voice of independent expression. It is there to inspire a generation of youth across the board, so they can stand up and be themselves confidently. Hip-Hop is the confidence of that expression.

JIVE MAGAZINE: What do you think that movement will be?

Saul Williams: That movement is us realizing that we are funding terrorism, that those we are labeling as terrorist are not Arab. They are western; they are American. They are in blue suits and striped ties. It?s about shifting the f*cking world we are living in, and it is happening right now.

JIVE MAGAZINE: There is a section in your book where you say, ?In my estimation Portishead is Hip-Hop. Tricky is Hip-Hop. Bjork is Hip-Hop. And They are Hip-Hop in ways that you have failed to be.? Do you find that these artists outside of the Hip-Hop spotlight tend to represent the music more earnestly than ?Hip-Hop? artists?
Saul Williams: I think if you are confined to a category when you are making an album then you will remain confined. There are artists in Hip-Hop like Outkast that have always music for themselves first and as a result they are being very true to themselves. It is not that the people outside have more respect per say but sometimes I think we tend to trap ourselves, and I fall guilty of that too.

JIVE MAGAZINE: Your remix to ?Black Stacy? features Nas. What do you think of the title of his latest project, Hip-Hop Is Dead?

Saul Williams: [laughs] Yah it has. It has gotten really boring, and the o­nly thing cats can think of to bring life to it is experimenting outside of Hip-Hop. That?s why you see Jay-Z working with Chris Martin. Everyone is expanding their vocabulary. We have run the gambit of basic sh*t we can do. The o­nly thing left to do is be creative. via

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