Saul Williams incites the braying masses to revolt, a frustrated prophet for the digital age.
In modern times, hacking is associated with the act of “gaining unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.” This is precisely what slam poet/artist/rapper Saul Williams wants all of us to do – except, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a computer we break into – society at large is the target. At his recent concert in Vienna’s brut, he desperately attempted to wake the public (or rather, rip their eyes open) from their blissful ignorance.
Hack into comfort compliance. Hack into the circumstantial evidence that proves the obvious and wakes the oblivious. Hack into ambition and greed. Hack into the effects of the construct of race. These are just a few of the messages that were not so subtly flashing on the massive screen behind Williams, ominously illuminating his silhouette. They were often accompanied by stark, disturbing images: A severely polluted lake filled with trash and litter. A once flourishing forest bulldozed to complete destruction. The words and images, the bright colors and flashing lights constantly demanded your attention. My eyes were continually, inadvertently diverted to the screen behind Williams, making it difficult to focus on the maestro’s performance and the words he sung, spoke or rapped.
By no means an avid follower of the spoken-word/hip hop scene, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I walked in. Though Williams’ words were quite difficult to understand at times, especially for my non-native companion, the evening felt like an intimate rally to discuss global issues – one part hanging out with friends and one part fermenting revolution. Williams’ general mood could be summed up perfectly in his frequent exclamations of “F*** you. Understand me” or perhaps even better – the very universal phrase “F*** this.”
Saul Williams also said “F*** your history teacher.” Ironically, I then promptly ran into my old history teacher – though I must say, we did have a nice, awkward laugh about it.