Saul Williams hearkens me back to a class I took in college; I'll just call it "How To Say Politically Correct Things All The Time Without Changing Anything About Your Ugly, Intolerant Thoughts 101." It was a required course, or I'd never have gotten within spitting distance of it, but in that class — a class offered by a major, private university, offering education to adults — the professor and the TA's would never say "nigger," they would always demure with "The N-Word" instead, as if the actual word were just too filthy to be allowed to stain their pristine tongues.
I can't tell you how much it rubbed me raw, back then, to be paying the big money for a university education only to be met with the kind of infantilizing squeamishness that simultaneously acknowledged, denied and euphemized an ongoing history of social injustice, first by refusing a word its life, and then by giving it the enormous power of unsayableness. It seemed to me that the thoughtlessly PC occlusion of the word did more to perpetuate its evil than any amount of saying it — it was a relationship to the word fraught with denial and fear.
Saul Williams, thank God, is not squeamish about words, though wisely, knowing their power well, he’s got a healthy respect for them. The son of a preacher and a school teacher, with three published books of poetry and an acclaimed screenplay to his name, Williams knows that words can be powerful and even dangerous, but he also knows they can bring worlds into being — that they can be weapons in the hands of a warrior.
In 2001, responding to a discussion of his first CD Amethyst Rock Star, on I Love Music he wrote: "I am not aiming to be any more than myself: a being influenced greatly by hip hop who has learned the power of words and music and believes in the power of art to redefine a culture, globally... We need life-changing music."
Speaking for myself, I’ve always preferred the courage of an artist with big intentions, and Saul Williams does credit to his. His records are nothing if not sharp-minded and acrobatically literate, and his words are afforded their full power by his fervent and fully conscious delivery. In fact, Williams represents the absolute antithesis of that college course that rubbed me raw: everything about him exhorts you to think, and I applaud his absolute willingness to be dead freaking serious.