How Music Can Challenge Power


In a world of shallow, manufactured and derivative music, where the only controversies are how vulgar the lyrics or videos are, Saul Williams stands out. He’s a singer, poet, activist and artist. His songs are full of passion and politics. It reminds me of the early days of Hip Hop when it was angry, defiant and political.

Saul came out with a new album a few months called “MartyrLoserKing”. It’s play on the name Martin Luther King and is the alter-ego Saul uses in the album – a kind of Ziggy Stardust. The character MLK is a hacker from Burundi who becomes famous and challenges authority. Here’s a taste of the lyrics:

What’s the matter?
Some politicians’ pockets getting fatter
The Robert Moses* of the useless chatter…

…But it keeps building
The wall between the poor and the rich building
Headquarters for the police worth a billion
They make a killing

and the best bit:

Tries it’s best
To keep us kneeling**
We have come
Standing in the field of bankers dung***
Extinguishing the fires of the young

Provocative stuff! Saul is planning on making a movie around the album as well.


*Robert Moses (1888-1981) was the controversial urban planner who preferred highways to public transport, and created suburbs. His road building was thought to cut across communities, and so disband them.

** History is political. It frames and embeds today’s power structure.

*** Bankers dung is the mess we left after the financial crisis.