23 July 2008

Said the Shotgun to the Head

As a long time admirer and fan of Saul Williams' work, I was delighted to come across his piece titled "An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey." In it, he provides his answer to a question she posed: "Are all rappers poets?" Excerpted below.

"Because of the competitive stance that all emcees are prone to take, they, like soldiers begin to believe that they can show no sign of vulnerability. Thus, the most popular emcees of our age are often those that claim to be heartless or show no feelings or signs of emotion.

The poet, on the other hand, is the one who realizes that their vulnerability is their power. Like you, unafraid to shed tears on countless shows, the poet finds strength in exposing their humanity, their vulnerability, thus making it possible for us to find connection and strength through their work. Many emcees have been poets. But, no, Ms. Winfrey, not all emcees are poets. Many choose gangsterism and business over the emotional terrain through which true artistry will lead. But they are not to blame."
-Saul Williams-
And below is a short piece from one of Saul's poetry books. He's gotten some attention recently for having one of his music tracks used in a Nike commercial. I was amazed to hear his work coming through my television attached to a sneaker ad but the song's energy was powerful, just like his is.
"our relationship
falling apart
at the seams

but our grandmothers
were both seamstresses
for a reason"
-Saul Williams, She-
Years ago, my friend Babbs gave Presidential Candidate Al Gore a copy of Mos Def's Black on Both Sides during a taped MTV appearance at Ann Arbor. He urged him to listen to it and to open his mind to the idea of hip hop as a form of social statement. Unfortunately, the full text of the e-mails is no longer online but you can read about what happened here.
"I wanted Gore to recognize people through hip-hop. Hip-hop to me isn't just an 'art form.' It's so much more than that. Hip-hop is experience. ... I think Black on Both Sides is extremely representative of the universal message of hip-hop ...and hip-hop as a proactive response to social injustice ...'Mr. N---a' and 'Mathematics' are two tracks he could learn a great deal from, to see why racism is still a very salient issue."
-Brian Babb-