This is Saul Williams’ latest effort to examine our social disconnect by way of speaking truth to power. Part of a multimedia project (including a play and a graphic novel), it’s based on the story of a hacker in an impoverished nation state; the album bats around the theme of hacking the consciousness to re-examine the dysfunctional world around us. The wilfully genre-agnostic Williams is best defined as a slam poet attuned to specific musical influences — rap, soul, punk — who is all about challenging society to question itself, its leaders and its systems. It’s heady stuff to dive into, and Williams isn’t particularly concerned whether listeners sink or swim, so long as they get wet. The charged-up vibe on opener “Groundwork” feels like a sonic baptism, setting the stage for the sermon to come. “Think Like They Book Say” represents the “genre be damned” approach, riding an urgent hip-hop beat with a chaotic soul-rock feel. Warpaint’s Emily Kokal lends vocals on “Burundi,” an ominous, ambitious “question authority” number with strident lyrics like “I’m a hacker runnin’ through your hard drive.” Williams is a “master of space and time,” to borrow a lyric from “Horn of the Clock-Bike,” a true revolutionary in a world that needs one, but doesn’t know it yet. The age of information hasn’t revealed knowledge, Williams maintains, it’s only provided more ways to conceal it; MartyrLoserKing is a vibrant effort to shine a light with the hope that people go towards it. (Pirates Blend, piratesblend.com)
HOW DO YOU REACH THOSE WHO AREN’T USED TO HAVING THEIR BELIEF SYSTEMS CHALLENGED?
That’s the thing about beauty. Beauty doesn’t have to be challenged. It attracts. So that’s part of the thing that comes quite simply. That type of honing, of nurturing, and adding those layers of richness and texture to enhance and bring out the beauty that is already there. It creates a sort of magnetism. You can embed the music with code; it’s about touching people with music.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE ALBUM?
However you feel when you finish listening. Wherever you land, that’s the step in that direction. In terms of concepts and context, I have a lot of fun trying to talk to the times, and speak through the times. I think it’s fun in terms of creating those little shocks and trying to find a way to affect and enhance aspects of culture. Things are there to be played with, in a sense.