Saul Williams
w/Midnight Eclipse, Youth Speaks

(early, all ages)
w/Urban Scribes Project, Felicia V. Loud and the Soul
Sat Dec 7, Chop Suey, $10 adv.

Saul Williams is the veteran of many a verbal battle, but when it comes to war with Iraq, he's raising his voice in staunch opposition. The 30-year-old poet, musician, and actor--perhaps best known for starring as an inmate whose life is transformed through poetry in the 1998 indie film Slam--recently channeled his vocal polemic into two songs for the Not In Our Name Project: "Bloodletting" and "September 12th."

"I'm hip to your games," he spits fiercely on the latter track. "Hip to the science of war/Propaganda makes me fight but what am I fighting for?/My way of life: beans and rice, give or take less or more/See through the eyes of the poor, plus I'm black to the core." With this, Williams reaffirms his position as one of the most accomplished and significant voices of African American dissent since Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott-Heron. Just as importantly, he dissects the intellectual shortcomings of the rigid "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" argument, his skill and conviction commanding your admiration, whatever your personal politics may be.

Strong in his beliefs, Williams has still come to them through studied consideration, avoiding the knee-jerk ranting that deflates the credibility of so many of his like-minded peers. This is evident in his riveting body of work (incorporating a few books of collected poems and a 2001 debut album, the hiphop/rock/spoken-word fest Amethyst Rock Star), which often explores the complexities and paradoxes inherent in the issues he confronts.

Including those issues within himself. A Grand Slam Championship winner at New York City's Nuyorican Poets Cafe, he creates poems that reflect an inward search for knowledge rather than shocking, showoffy theatrics. A student of classic rap (particularly Public Enemy and Rakim), he makes music that leans toward the avant-garde and drum 'n' bass, incorporating violins as prominently as turntables. A harsh critic of bling-bling culture in Amethyst's "Penny for a Thought," he still admits, "They're paying me to record this, even more if you hear it."

Even as Williams searches for truths, he's taking a stand for what he believes in right now.

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