Since that gloomy night on Nov. 2, the liberal kingpins of America have been more than a little pessimistic about their latest defeat: Michael Moore began devouring entire bulk-size boxes of Twinkies without even removing the wrappers while moving forward with a Fahrenheit 9/11 sequel (creatively entitled 9/11 1/2, Ray Bradbury must be delighted), John Stewart looks like someone ran over his puppy and is biding his time before seeking revenge on a monumental level that may or may not include the use of Tabasco sauce and Super Soakers, and Janeane Garofalo spontaneously combusts at least once an episode on her Air America radio show.
There is a whole nation of first-time voters who puke all over themselves at the sight of Dubya, like Kyle on South Park every time he sees his crush Wendy. The collective nation of leftists is freaking out, maybe except for renowned poet/MC/actor/revolutionary Saul Williams. He launched a tour in support of his self-titled album on Nov. 1, which has quickly turned into a breeding ground for the type of revolutionary dialogue that would make even Tyler Durden blush. His latest album has self-admittedly taken on brand-new meaning in light of the political climate, and his hand in penning the pledge of resistance for the Anti-Iraq war movement headed by Not In Our Name has solidified him not only as one of hip-hop’s most intelligent and progressive voices, but one of music’s most politically determined.
In terms of being in a hip-hop community: You seem at peace with being a positive voice among many negative ones; how long did that process take?
I was angry at hip hop for a long time, and it took me a long time to get over that anger, probably about seven to eight years, and it’s just recently that I realized that anger has no place in my being.
How was the composition of this album compared to the last? Was it more relaxed?
It was stuff I worked on daily at my house, between taking my daughter to school. It was very relaxed. Although the album may be kind of tense and in-your-face, it came from a very relaxed state. This album is much more relevant now; the anger that was originally there has been replaced.
Diamonds in the hip-hop community: What are your feelings?
I’ve been through lots of phases in hip hop; I’ve been through the medallion, shell-toe Adidas, hat cocked to the side with the sewn-in creases on my pants. I’ve been through that and I’ve sat back and analyzed why I was into that and I realized it was because I didn’t have much, and so when I did have something to brag or show off, it was important to me, as a ‘have not,’ to be able to put something in the air. … But the next logical step is to realize that there are other ‘have nots’ who have even less than we do, so when we show what we have, if we are showing what we took from them, from their lives and from their freedoms, we are only creating more ‘have nots.’
Are you afraid of apathy setting in with the re-election of President Bush, especially since there was such an emphasis on getting more people out to vote? Do we need to take a step back?
If Bush is in office I have no fear of apathy setting in. I don’t think we know exactly how we are gonna do it, but we are going to move beyond, move beyond fear-based, faith-based politics. I haven’t been able to articulate my own feelings about this too much because I have to let my feelings evolve to where they can be articulated, so that step back is necessary. But this is not an apathetic step back; it’s not an ‘Oh well, fuck it,’ it’s more like ‘Hmm, let’s reassess.’
Was it discouraging to you to see that the youth vote wasn’t exponentially bigger? Do you feel like your latest album can act as some sort of consolation to the bruised egos?
Not at all, what we found out is, a lot of the youth (18-24) did vote; unfortunately, what we found out was a lot of them voted Republican. In thinking about the album I just recorded, and the message in the album was all about self-empowerment, and kids finding their voices and realizing the power of their voice and of their being and of their presence and using that power to create and lead the change of their belief, and this is the perfect time for that. What has just happened is by no means a setback for youth motivation, because the real change is (not) going to come about by people going to the polls and voting. Real change is not going to come about through voting, real change is going to come about through individuals making individual changes in their lives about how they are going to approach each individual situation-and that’s the real battle that we are going to have to go through right now-right now the real war that we are facing is going to be child pitted against parent.
Were you a Kerry advocate or more in the camp that said ‘Anybody But Bush?’
I was hoping that we could take a detour through Kerry-a detour away from this fucked-up route-it’s like the same shit we try to pull off in relationships, when things are going downhill and you try to avoid the crash by taking a turn here or there, but it’s inevitable-and so I really feel that this is the thing that is going to build to our break up. The break up is going to be us from our parents, and from the hypocrisy of our forefathers
What does this re-election say to you? And to the other nations of the world?
What we realize through Bush and those who support him is that what they support-the hate, the fear, the sense of disconnectedness-is deeply rooted in this nation. And so now we have to just go deeper and deeper into the roots of our music, the roots of our culture, the roots of our poetry, the roots of our being, and pull it out at the roots. So America has to realize right now, we have more weeds than flowers.