Saul Williams on stage in 2007
|Birth name||Saul Stacey Williams|
February 29, 1972 |
Newburgh, New York, United States
|Genres||Alternative hip hop, industrial hip hop, spoken word, poetry, electronic|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, musician, poet, writer, actor|
|Associated acts||Trent Reznor, Wax Poetic, Thavius Beck, Atari Teenage Riot, Buckethead|
Saul Stacey Williams (born February 29, 1972) is an American singer, musician, poet, writer, and actor. He is known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop, and for his lead roles in the 1998 film Slam and Holler If Ya Hear Me, a Broadway musical featuring music by Tupac Shakur.
Early life and education
The youngest of three children, Williams was born in Newburgh, New York. He attended Newburgh Free Academy, where he wrote his song "Black Stacey". After graduating from Morehouse College with a BA in Acting and Philosophy, Williams moved to New York City to earn an MFA in Acting from New York University's prestigious Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts. While there, he found himself at the center of the New York cafe poetry scene. He also lived in Brazil for student exchange in 1988-1989.
By 1995, he had become an open mic poet, and in 1996, he won the title of Nuyorican Poets Cafe's Grand Slam Champion. The documentary film SlamNation follows Williams and the other members of the 1996 Nuyorican Poets Slam team (Beau Sia, muMs da Schemer, and Jessica Care Moore) as they compete in the 1996 National Poetry Slam held in Portland, Oregon. The following year, Williams landed the lead role in the 1998 feature film Slam. Williams featured as both a writer and actor on the film, which would win both the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Camera D'Or (Golden Camera) while introducing Williams to international audiences.
Around 1998, Williams was also breaking into music. He had performed with such artists as Nas, The Fugees, Christian Alvarez, Blackalicious, Erykah Badu, KRS-One, Zack De La Rocha, De La Soul, and DJ Krust, as well as poets Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez. After releasing a string of EPs, he released the LP Amethyst Rock Star with producer Rick Rubin in 2001. In September 2004, he released his self-titled album to much acclaim. He played several shows supporting Nine Inch Nails on their European tour in summer 2005, and has also supported The Mars Volta. Williams was invited to the Lollapalooza music festival around time, and the Chicago stage allowed Williams to attract a wider audience. He appeared on the Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero, and supported the group on their 2006 tour of North America. On the tour, Williams announced that Trent Reznor would co-produce his next album.
This collaboration resulted in 2007's The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!. The album was available only from its website until a physical CD was issued, featuring new tracks and extended album artwork. The first 100,000 customers on the website had the option to download a free lower-quality audio version of the album. The other option was for users to pay $5 to support the artist directly and be given the choice of downloading the higher-quality MP3 version or the lossless FLAC version. The material was produced by Trent Reznor and mixed by Alan Moulder. It was Reznor who said, after his own recent dealings with record labels, that they should release it independently and directly to the audience.
In early 2008, a Nike Sparq Training commercial featured Williams' song "List of Demands (Reparations)". In a November 2008 interview with Wired.com, Williams talked about his forthcoming projects: "There's one album that I'm waist-deep into. I'm aiming to finish it up next month. Trent wants to work on a sequel for Niggy that I think would be cool, and I also have an album and new songs demoed at home that I'm ready to go into the studio and lay down. It’s a complete reflection of how I feel in this country; it's a very transformative time."
Williams' latest album, Volcanic Sunlight, was released on November 11, 2011. Williams showcased the album at London's Hoxton Bar Kitchen on January 26, 2011. Livemusic interviewed Williams on the evening and made a subsequent film, produced by artist Alex Templeton-Ward. When Williams was asked what the point of poetry was, he said: "I'm making this up, I have no idea but here we go. I think that it would be to express, to share, to relieve, to explore. For me, poetry offers some what of a cathartic experience. I am able to move through emotions and emotional experience particularly, you know, break-ups, difficulties in all the things that I may face, whether that is with an industry or a loved one or whomever, there needs to be an infiltration process, like you have a window open over there. That is the purpose of poetry: it is the window that opens, that allows some air in, some other insight, some other possibility so we can explore all that we feel, all that we think but with the space to see more than what we know, because there is so much more than we know. If I didn't open myself to the possibilities of the unknown, then I would be lost."
As a writer, Williams has been published in The New York Times, Esquire, Bomb Magazine, and African Voices, as well as releasing four collections of poetry. As a poet and musician, Williams has toured and lectured across the world, appearing at many universities and colleges. In his interview in the book Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, Williams explained why he creates within so many genres: "It's not that I balance those arts out, all the different arts balance me out. So, that there is a certain type of emotion that is more easily accessible through music than poetry... some things are meant to be written, some are meant to be sung, some things are meant to be hummed, some things are made to be yelled, and so that's just how life works."
In January 2009, he released NGH WHT – The Dead Emcee Scrolls with The Arditti Quartet, a reading of his 2006 poetry book of the same name. This collaboration with Thomas Kessler (who also set Williams' spoken-word track ",said the shotgun to the head" to music) was released with two payment options: listeners could download chapters 18 to 22 of the 27-minute composition in MP3 format for free, or could download the entire 33-chapter composition in lossless AIFF format for $6, along with the isolated vocal and quartet multitracks. The entire paid download totalled in size at 563 megabytes. Williams contributed to two tracks on the 2011 album Baba Love by Arthur H.
Apart from featuring in the film Slam, he was chosen for the lead role in Holler If Ya Hear Me, a Broadway musical featuring music by Tupac Shakur. Though it features Shakur's music, the musical is not about his life. It is an original script written by Todd Kreidler. Rolling Stone described the production as "the first hip-hop jukebox musical in Broadway history." The show opened on June 19, 2014. His role in the musical landed him an interview on The Colbert Report, where he spoke about his career and performed a poem entitled "Amethyst Rocks."
Williams is a vegan and currently resides in Paris, France. He is a vocal critic of the War on Terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; among his better-known works are the anti-war anthems "Not In My Name" and "Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)". In 2011, Williams added his name to Occupy Musicians, supporting the worldwide Occupy movement against income inequality.
Williams and artist Marcia Jones, a visual artist and art professor, began their relationship in 1995 as collaborative artists on the Brooklyn performance art and spoken word poetry circuit. Their daughter, Saturn, was born in 1996. A collection of poems by Williams entitled S/HE is a series of reflections on the demise of his relationship with Jones. Jones created the cover artwork for The Seventh Octave, images throughout S/HE in response to Williams, and set-designed his 2001 album Amethyst Rock Star. Saturn performed with her father on his 2008 concert tour. Williams also has a son, Xuly Williams.
On his 36th birthday, Williams married his girlfriend of five years, actress Persia White. Williams met White in 2003 when he made a guest appearance on the TV show Girlfriends. On January 17, 2009, White announced via her Myspace blog that she and Williams were no longer together.
- Penny for a Thought / Purple Pigeons (2000)
- Amethyst Rock Star (2001)
- Not in My Name (2003)
- Saul Williams (2004)
- The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! (2007)
- NGH WHT – The Dead Emcee Scrolls with The Arditti Quartet (2009)
- Volcanic Sunlight (2011)
Guest and compilation appearances
- "Twice the First Time" on Eargasms – Crucialpoetics Vol. 1 (1997)
- "Elohim (1972)" on Black Whole Styles (1998)
- "Ohm" on Lyricist Lounge, Volume One (1999)
- "Coded Language" on Coded Language by DJ Krust (1999)
- "Release" with Lyrics Born and Zack De La Rocha on Blazing Arrow by Blackalicious (2002)
- "Time (Jungle) (Temple Of Soul Mix)" on Nublu Sessions, mixed by Wax Poetic (2003)
- "Sent from Sandy Shores" (with Sacajawea) on Dreams of Water Themes by Adventure Time (2003)
- "Wake up Show Freestyles" by Sway and King Tech (2004)
- "Three Fingers" on Enter the Chicken by Buckethead & Friends (2005)
- "Sea Lion(Extended)" (with Will Oldham) on "Sea Lion" by Sage Francis (2005)
- "Mr. Nichols" on Sound Mirrors by Coldcut (2006)
- "April Showers, April Tears" on ¿What by Stuart Davis (2006)
- ",said the shotgun to the head" on Thomas Kessler by Thomas Kessler (2006)
- "Survivalism" and "Me, I'm Not" on Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails (2007)
- "Gunshots By Computer" and "Survivalism" on Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D by Nine Inch Nails (2007)
- "Lyrical Gunplay" on Thru by Thavius Beck
- "Dance Of The Dead" on The Unbound Project, Vol. 1 a compilation benefit album for Mumia Abu-Jamal
- "List Of Demands" on Nike Sparq Commercial
- "Black Stacy Remix" ft. Nas
- "U Can Do It" (with Maeckes) on "KIDS" by Maeckes (2010)
- "Dance or Die" on The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe (2010)
- "Black Intro" on Straight Up by Vic Mensa (2010)
- "Amethyst Rockstar" (Feat. Kirk Knight) [Prod. By MF DOOM] on Summer Knights by Joey Bada$$ (2013)
- The Seventh Octave, 1998, Moore Black Press ISBN 0-9658308-1-0
- She, 1999, MTV/Pocketbooks ISBN 0-671-03977-6
- Said the Shotgun to the Head, 2003, MTV/Pocketbooks ISBN 0-7434-7079-6
- The Dead Emcee Scrolls, 2006, MTV/Pocketbooks ISBN 1-4165-1632-8
- Chorus, 2012, MTV Books ISBN 1-4516-4983-5 
- Downtown 81 (voice) (1981/2000)
- Girlfriends (2003)
- Underground Voices (1996)
- Slam (1998)
- SlamNation (1998)
- I'll Make Me a World (1999)
- King of the Korner (2000)
- K-PAX (2001)
- The N-Word (2004)
- Lackawanna Blues (2004)
- Today (2012)
- The Colbert Report (Guest) (May 1, 2014)
- "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-08.
- Sheppard, Ferrari. "Saul William Interview". Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Soft Skull Press, 226. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
- IMDB Awards page for Slam
- "Saul Williams recording with Trent/Atticus". The NIN Hotline. 2006-03-13. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Interview: Saul Williams
- Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) produced album by Saul Williams yours for zero dollar
- One Year Later, Saul Williams Talks Niggy Tardust's Wins, What's Next
- Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Soft Skull Press. Page 229. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
- NGH WHT – The Dead Emcee Scrolls with The Arditti Quartet
- Arthur H and Saul Williams
- Weingarten, Christopher (June 9, 2014). "Hip-Hop's first jukebox musical debuts: tupac's "holler if ya hear me"". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "Holler If Ya Hear Me". newyorkcitytheatre.com. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "Saul Williams Talks ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’ & Performs "Amethyst Rocks" On The Colbert Report". okayplayer.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- "Saul Williams Makes A Heartfelt Argument For Going Vegan". ecorazzi. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- "Interview with Saul Williams Loserdom #13". Loserdom zine. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- Michaels, Sean (2011-11-22). "Lou Reed and Tom Morello support Occupy movement with new website Pair are among first signatories of Occupy Musicians, a campaign supporting movement against income inequality". article (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- http://blackcelebkids.com/2008/08/06/videosaul-williams-and-daughter-attend-lollapalooza-festival Saul/Saturn Williams
- "Marcia Jones". Nat Creole. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- "Lollapalloza Report". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- Saul& Saturn Williams Perform @ Lollapalooza, 6 Aug 8
- http://i2.tinypic.com/xliln9.jpg Persia/Mecca feed a lamb
- http://www.prphotos.com/store/category.cgi?item=SGG-059590&type=store&ps=1&start=23 Persia/Mecca,19 Mar 05 Genesis Awards
- "Love Life and Friendship". blogs.myspace.com. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- Williams, Saul (2011-01-01). "Chorus (9781451649833): Saul Williams: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-02-26.
- Saul Williams – official site
- Saul Williams discography at Discogs
- Saul Williams at the Internet Movie Database
- Saul Williams: Volcanic Sunlight
- Interview with Saul Williams (via Talk Rock To Me) May 4, 2012