Review Summary: Genius reveals that his skills go far beyond mere poetry. A great lyricist who shapes his words in a spoken/rapped/sung masterpeice which he puts under his own created mantle of "Industrial-Punk-Hop". He gives us a non gangster view from the ghetto.
Of all the world's ironies perhaps one of the best is that i discovered this album via kerrang!, a magazine i have concluded is more trendy than musical since. The reviews screamed about how amazing this album was so i checked it out. I decided i should do a review which really does it justice. So here we go:
1. Talk to Strangers:
Beginning with an oddly creepy piano playing, supplied by Serj Tankian of SOAD, whilst Saul talks a rap which is full of really great rhymes. The backing music takes place in an oddly operatic setting whilst the lyrics describe an urban landscape where Saul tells about his friends who sold drugs and the time he was almost jumped. He expands it to describe an entire world "where freedom costs too much". The lyrics are so good that describing the best one would be copying and pasting the entire song into this review. However ending with the line "As a great man once said 'There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.'" is an undisputible highlight.
Beginning with a kind of hip-hop art-punk spikiness, the signature sound of bands like the Liars, this track is intriguingly spooky. The bassline has similarities to industrial dance tracks. The song is an ambitous description by Saul as he offers himself up as a saviour and leader. He talks about the entire world, both socially and musically. The song is calling to the youth and musicians. The song changes in mood but sticks to the main hip-hop beat that continues all the way through.
A huge riff is the basis of this song but the added electronica overlap which gives it an amazing dissonance. The lyrical description of a kind of music that began with Hip-Hop and became something so much more. The lyrical highlight is probably "perhaps we should not have encoruaged them to use cordless microphones because they have travelled too far away from the source and are emitting lesser frequencies". This dark criticism of modern Hip-Hop and of the Modern world is incredibly hard hitting.
4. Act III (Shakespeare):
The electronic beat is mixed with industrial live drums and sees the second guest-spot on the album. Saul Williams swaps lines with Zach de La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine Infamy. As you might expect the song is an angry political music-driven manifesto. The music is a real triumph as it manages to be constantly surprising as it adapts to Saul's constantly changing lyrical descriptions of the dark world. Both Zach and Saul sound livid on this incendiary track.
5. List of Demands:
"I want my money back. / I'm down here drowning in your fat. /You got me on my knees praying for everything you lack./ I ain't afraid of you. / I'm just a victim of your fears. / You cower in your tower praying that I'll disappear, " is one of the greatest opening stanzas of all time. The Delivery of these lyrics falls somewhere between the Righteous anger we have seen and soulful style singing which appears for the first time on this album. The songs lyrics are hugely inventive, joining the dots between the surreal and the political. They also see Saul referring to God as " a baby and the daiper is wet". The musical base for this song is perfect in its simple reverberating riff an smashing style drums. The song feels complex in its simplicity. Excellent
6. African Student Movement:
Electronica beats are the order of the day in this case. A song which Saul uses as a call to arms for his entire race, well partially at least. The song is also used to comment on the general political and historical place of Africans and African Americans. The Vocals here are mainly spoken word. Quietly threatening in its nature, this song sort of creeps up on you and murders you slowly. However the song is not negative in style necessarily, it is more ominously freaky but still very positive.
7. Black Stacey:
A very personal tale of Saul's times at school. A story of self-denial in high school, trying not to be too black in order to be cool. However the song then becomes a love song sang at a girl fom high school. It then becomes a social commentary, attacking what people view as "black". He then attacks those who do act "black". The key lyric in this attack is " You should do that, if nothing else to prove that, A playa like you can be honest and true, i don't mean to call yoru bluff but motherf**ker thats what i do!". In this song Saul is Personal, Cultural and Social.
A song about censorship. Lyrically detailing the fact that he may come to be censored musically, despite the fact that Saul is strictly against the "Gangsta" view of Hip-Hop. A quite short song but its got a up and down beat/tunewhic is very effective. It's chilled, it's short but it's message is clear.
9. Surrender(A Second to Think):
The oddly 70s punk/ska bassline and flat drum beats. Saul once again returns to his Soulful Croon tops off the tune. This is really more of a Hip-Hop song than a Hip-Hop rap. However the power is definitely there as he leads the song in many different directions, ocassionally speeding it up and when he begins more powerful spoken-word lyrics as the song chimes in the background.
10. Control Freak:
The samples in this piece make you think of a plane going to space, and this space is a kind of bright blue colour. It's an awesome landscape to present to the listeners. Lyrically it is hard to make out what Saul is doing here but once again the soulful sung approach supplies the listener with suitably powerful ear candy. The Atmospheres in this song jump between a kind of righteous punk-rage and Aphex Twin layers of ambience.
The beat used hear makes me think of a sleazy underground club which is in some way haunted. Saul once again has a voice which sounds like the Poet of the apocalypse even though he is just speaking. The use of female voices and extended electro sounds top off this atmosphere. The beginning lines of this song "I drive a yellow Volvo BG subamrine. Someone's behind me in an Escalade trying to blind me with the beam." sets the scene for a dark dingy and powerful narrative.
12. Notice of Eviction: With a combined atmosphere of Ambient electronica and Post-Rock landscapes mixed with hip hop. The repeated "something is dying tonight" refrain leads this song into such a powerful built up atmosphere. The use of echoing, reverberating synthesisers later in the track and the more serious, echoed vocal approach ends the track on this amazing low note. A perfect ending to an amazng album, ending on a powerful Ambient note.
Overall:A man who seeks to end all the negative issues occasionally associated with hip-hop his voice still comes from the ghetto, but he is commentary about the ghetto the people both outside and inside it and other members of the hip-hop scene. Buy this album if you haven't already.