Saul Williams, Poet, Writer, Actor   Leave a comment

Saul Stacey Williams (born February 29, 1972) is an American poet, writer, actor and musician known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop and for his leading role in the 1998 independent film Slam.


The youngest of three children, Williams was born in Newburgh, New York. He attended Newburgh Free Academy for high school, where he would write his song “Black Stacey.” After graduating from Morehouse College with a B.A. in acting and philosophy, Williams moved to New York City to earn an MFA in Acting from New York University‘s prestigious Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.[1][2] There he found himself at the center of the New York cafe poetry scene.

Williams and artist Marcia Jones began their relationship in 1995 as collaborative artists on the Brooklyn performance art and spoken word circuit. Their daughter, Saturn, was born in 1996.[3] His collection of poems S/HE is a series of reflections on the demise of the relationship.[4] Marcia Jones,[5] a visual artist and art professor, 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 has recently been performing with her father on his 2008 concert tour.[6] [7]

On his 36th birthday, February 29, 2008, Williams married his girlfriend of five years, actress Persia White. Williams met White in 2003 when he made a guest appearance on the TV show Girlfriends as a poet named Sivad. (1993).[8][9] On January 17, 2009, White announced via her Myspace blog that she and Williams were no longer together.[10]

Williams is a vegan.[11]


By 1995, he had become an open mic poet and, 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[12] on the film, which would win both the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Camera D’Or (Golden Camera)[13] and serve to introduce Williams to international audiences.

Williams was at this time 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, and DJ Krust, as well as poets Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez. After releasing a string of EPs, in 2001 he released the LP Amethyst Rock Star with producer Rick Rubin and in September 2004 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 also invited to the Lollapalooza music festival in Summer 2005. The Chicago stage allowed Williams to attract a wider audience. He also appeared on NIN‘s album Year Zero, and supported the group on their 2006 North American tour. On the tour Williams announced that Trent Reznor would co-produce his next album.[14]

This collaboration resulted in 2007’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!. This album was available only at the website until a physical CD of the album was issued. The physical release included new tracks and extended album artwork.[15] 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 has been produced by Trent Reznor and mixed by Alan Moulder. It was Reznor who said that, after his own recent dealings with record labels, they should release it independently and directly.[16]

As a writer, Williams has been published in The New York Times, Esquire, Bomb Magazine and African Voices, as well as having released 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, saying:

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.[17]

Williams is a vocal critic of the War on Terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;[18] among his better-known works are the anti-war anthems “Not In My Name” and “Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)”. In early 2008, a Nike Sparq Training commercial featured Williams’s song “List of Demands (Reparations)”.

In a November 2008 interview with, Williams talked about his forthcoming projects:

…but 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.[19]

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 ,said the shotgun to the head to music) is released with two payment options: listeners may download Chapters 18-22 of the 27-minute composition for free (in mp3 format), or for $6, can download the entire 33-chapter composition in lossless .aif format, along with the isolated vocal and quartet multitrack stems. The entire paid download totals in size at 563 Megabyte.[20]

He currently resides in Paris, France. He has contributed to two tracks on the 2011 album Baba Love by French musician Arthur H.[21]

Williams latest album, Volcanic Sunlight’ was released November 11, 2011. Williams showcased the album at London‘s Hoxton Bar Kitchen on January 26, 2011. interviewed Williams on the evening and made a subsequent film. Artist Alex Templeton-Ward produced the film. 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.”

Posted March 3, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Uncategorized

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