Saul Williams

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Saul Williams
Saul Williams at Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 2012.jpg
Saul Williams performing live in 2012
Background information
Birth nameSaul Stacey Williams
Born (1972-02-29) February 29, 1972 (age 47) [1]
Newburgh, New York, U.S.
  • Rapper
  • singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • poet
  • writer
  • actor
InstrumentsVocals, bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Associated acts
Education Morehouse College (BA)
New York University (MFA)

Saul Stacey Williams (born February 29, 1972) is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, musician, slam poet, writer, and actor. He is known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop and for his lead roles in the 1998 independent film Slam and the 2013 jukebox musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, featuring Tupac Shakur's music.

Alternative hip hop is a subgenre of hip hop music that encompasses the wide range of styles that are not typically identified as mainstream. AllMusic defines it as follows: "Alternative rap refers to hip hop groups that refuse to conform to any of the traditional stereotypes of rap, such as gangsta, bass, hardcore, pop, and party rap. Instead, they blur genres drawing equally from funk and pop/rock, as well as jazz, soul, reggae, and even folk."

<i>Slam</i> (1998 film) 1998 film directed by Marc Levin

Slam is a 1998 independent film directed, co-written and co-produced by Marc Levin and starring and co-written by Saul Williams and Sonja Sohn. It tells the story of a young African-American man whose talent for poetry is hampered by his social background. It won the Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival as well as the Caméra d'Or at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

<i>Holler If Ya Hear Me</i> (musical) musical

Holler If Ya Hear Me is a jukebox musical written by Todd Kreidler featuring the rap music of Tupac Shakur.


Early life

Williams was born in Newburgh, New York, and is the youngest of three children in his family. He attended Newburgh Free Academy, where he wrote his song "Black Stacey". He graduated from Morehouse College with a BA in acting and philosophy, then moved to New York City, where he earned an MFA in acting from New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts. [4] [5] While at New York University he became part of the New York café poetry scene. Williams has also lived in Brazil as an exchange student from 1988 to 1989.

Newburgh Free Academy

Newburgh Free Academy is the public high school educating all students in grades 9–12 in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, which serves the city of Newburgh, New York, the towns of Newburgh and New Windsor, and portions of the towns of Marlboro, New York, Cornwall, New York and various others.

Morehouse College African American mens college in Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Morehouse College is a private, historically black men's college in Atlanta, Georgia. The college is one of the few remaining traditional men's liberal arts colleges in the United States.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.



Williams live at SXSW 2008 Saul Williams SXSW 2008.jpg
Williams live at SXSW 2008

By 1995, Williams had become an open mic poet. 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 in the film, [6] which would win both the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Camera D'Or (Golden Camera). [7]

Poetry slam poets competition

A poetry slam is a competition in which poets of all ages perform spoken word poetry. Poetry slams began in Chicago in 1984 with its first competition designed to move poetry recitals from academia to a popular audience when American poet Marc Smith began experimenting with existing open microphone venues for poetry readings by making them competitive. The performances at a poetry slam are judged by a panel of judges, typically five, and usually selected from the audience, or sometimes judged by audience response. The judges usually give each poem a score on a scale of 0–10. The highest and lowest scores are dropped and the middle three are kept. The highest score one can receive is 30 and the lowest is zero.

<i>SlamNation</i> 1998 film by Paul Devlin

SlamNation is a documentary film by director Paul Devlin. The film follows the National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon.

Beau Sia is an American slam poet.


NiggyTardust! tour, Montreal (2008) Saul Williams concert.jpg
NiggyTardust! tour, Montreal (2008)

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, Buckethead, 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 that 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. [8]

Nas American rapper, record executive and entrepreneur from New York

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, known professionally as Nas, is an American rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur and investor. The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums and has sold over 30 million records worldwide. He is also an entrepreneur through his own record label; he serves as associate publisher of Mass Appeal magazine and the co-founder of Mass Appeal Records.

Blackalicious band

Blackalicious is an American hip-hop duo from Sacramento, California, made up of rapper Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel. They are noted for Gift of Gab's often tongue-twisting, multisyllabic, complex rhymes. The duo have released four full-length albums.

Erykah Badu American singer, songwriter, record producer and actor from Texas

Erica Abi Wright, known professionally as Erykah Badu, is an American singer-songwriter, record producer and actor. Badu's career began after opening a show for D'Angelo in 1994 in Fort Worth; record label executive Kedar Massenburg was highly impressed with her performance and signed her to Kedar Entertainment. Her first album, Baduizm, was released in February 1997. It spawned three singles: "On & On", "Next Lifetime" and "Otherside of the Game". The album was certified triple Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Her first live album, Live, was released in November 1997 and was certified double Platinum by the RIAA.

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. [9] 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. [10]

<i>The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!</i> 2007 studio album by Saul Williams

The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! is the third solo studio album by Saul Williams. It was released in 2007. It peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart, as well as number 89 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album is entirely produced by Trent Reznor. The title of the album is a reference to David Bowie's 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

FLAC reference software for the handling of FLAC data

FLAC is an audio coding format for lossless compression of digital audio, and is also the name of the free software project producing the FLAC tools, the reference software package that includes a codec implementation. Digital audio compressed by FLAC's algorithm can typically be reduced to between 50 and 70 percent of its original size and decompress to an identical copy of the original audio data.

Trent Reznor American musician

Michael Trent Reznor is an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and film score composer. He is the founder, lead vocalist, and principal songwriter of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, which he founded in 1988 and of which he was the sole official member until adding long-time collaborator Atticus Ross as a permanent member in 2016. His first release under the Nine Inch Nails name, the 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine, was a commercial and critical success. He has since released nine Nine Inch Nails studio albums. He left Interscope Records in 2007 and was an independent recording artist until signing with Columbia Records in 2012.

In early 2008, a Nike Sparq Training commercial featured Williams' song "List of Demands (Reparations)". In a November 2008 interview with, 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." [11]

Nike, Inc. American athletic equipment company

Nike, Inc. is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, in the Portland metropolitan area. It is the world's largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel and a major manufacturer of sports equipment, with revenue in excess of US$24.1 billion in its fiscal year 2012. As of 2012, it employed more than 44,000 people worldwide. In 2014 the brand alone was valued at $19 billion, making it the most valuable brand among sports businesses. As of 2017, the Nike brand is valued at $29.6 billion. Nike ranked No. 89 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

Williams' fourth 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."

Williams' fifth album, MartyrLoserKing , was released on January 29, 2016.

In March 2018, The Kills released their cover of Williams' "List of Demands (Reparations)" and Williams opened for The Kills' sold-out performance at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles on August 13, 2018.


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." [12]

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. [13] Williams contributed to two tracks on the 2011 album Baba Love by Arthur H. [14]


On film Williams has starred in Slam (1998), and Today (2012). On stage Williams 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". [15] The show opened on June 19, 2014. [16] Williams' 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". [17]

Personal life

Williams is a vegan. [18] He is a vocal critic of the War on Terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [19] Among his better-known works are the anti-war anthems "Not in My Name" and "Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)". In 2011, he added his name to Occupy Musicians, supporting the worldwide Occupy movement against income inequality. [20] He identifies as queer. [21]

Williams and Marcia Jones, a visual artist and art professor, [22] 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. [23] A collection of poems by Williams entitled S/HE is a series of reflections on the demise of his relationship with Jones. [24] 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. [25] [26] Williams also has a son named Xuly with renowned choreographer Fatima Robinson. [27] [28]

On February 29, 2008 (his 36th birthday), Williams married actress Persia White, his girlfriend of five years. They met in 2003 when he made a guest appearance on the TV show Girlfriends . [29] [30] On January 17, 2009, White announced via her Myspace blog that she and Williams were no longer together. [31]

He is now married to Rwandan-born Anisia Uzeyman. [32] He recently lived in Paris for four years but now resides in Los Angeles. [33]


Williams playing the bass at SXSW 2008 Saul Williams SXSW 2008 bass.jpg
Williams playing the bass at SXSW 2008

Studio albums

Compilation albums



Guest appearances

List of guest appearances
TitleYearOther performer(s)Album
"Coded Language"1999 Krust Coded Language
"Monkey Theme"2000The InfesticonsGun Hill Road
"Release"2002 Blackalicious, Zack de la Rocha, Lyrics Born, Sela Kerr Blazing Arrow
"Playing House" Tre Hardson Liberation
"Sent from Sandy Shores"2003Adventure TimeDreams of Water Themes
"Time (Jungle)" (Temple of Soul Mix) Wax Poetic Nublu Sessions
"Freedom"2004 Karl Denson's Tiny Universe N/A
"Three Fingers"2005 Buckethead & Friends Enter the Chicken
"Sea Lion" (Extended version) Sage Francis, Will Oldham, AliasN/A
"Lyrical Gunplay"2006 Thavius Beck Thru
"Mr. Nichols" Coldcut Sound Mirrors
"April Showers, April Tears" Stuart Davis N/A
"Said the Shotgun to the Head"Thomas KesslerThomas Kessler
"Survivalism" (backing vocals)2007 Nine Inch Nails Year Zero
"Me, I'm Not" (backing vocals)
"Gunshots by Computer" Year Zero Remixed
"Easter"2009Stuart DavisSex, God, Rock 'n Roll: Songs from the TV Series
"U Can Do It"2010MaeckesKids
"Dance or Die" Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
"Black Intro" Vic Mensa Straight Up
"Le Paradis II Est Chinois"2011 Arthur H Baba Love
"Believe" Ayọ Billie-Eve
"Rendez-Nous L'Argent"2014NevcheRétroviseur
"Money God"2015 Haleek Maul Prince Midas
"Imperial Sound"2016 Torae Entitled
"The Virus" A Tribe Called Red, Chippewa TravellersWe Are the Halluci Nation
"Wings"2017 Vic Mensa, Pharrell Williams The Autobiography
"Ancestral Recall"2019 Christian Scott Ancestral Recall



Williams in 2005 SaulWilliams by Rad.jpg
Williams in 2005



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