Saul Williams may have become a “a one-man multimedia juggernaut,” as The Chicago Reader said: a torrent of creative force now spinning concept albums, films, comic books, and more around his Afrofuturist MartyrLoserKing concept. But the spoken word, in all of its potency and simplicity, remains at the center of Williams’s generation-defining artistry, and it’s all he’ll need to rivet the spotlight in this intimate solo performance.
Since the 1990s, no one has projected the ideal of the spoken-word poet into the public imagination like Williams has. A native of New York, where he trained as an actor, he became the biggest name in the poetry scene after taking the Nuyorican Poets Café’s Grand Slam championship in 1996. Then he brought news of that scene to the world, both as a subject in the documentary SlamNation and the cowriter-star of the feature film Slam, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Cannes Camera D’Or. Years later, he starred in the short-lived but groundbreaking show Holler If Ya Hear Me, which Rolling Stone noted as “the first hip-hop jukebox musical in Broadway history.”
All the while, Williams built a recording career blending cipher rhymes, rock fury, and high-minded themes into an unshakable style that crosses freely between the worlds of KRS-One, Nine Inch Nails, and Swiss composer Thomas Kessler, who recast a Williams album for The Arditti String Quartet. Recently, he collaborated with a group of distinguished choreographers, including Bill T. Jones, on The Motherboard Suite, in which his exhortations shook Times Square, though they hardly need such fanfare to inspire awe.