First establishing himself as an influential poet, and then as an award-winning screenwriter/actor, Saul Williams went on to establish himself as an MC. His approach wasn’t exactly in line with the traditional school of hip-hop. His rhymes weren’t really rhymes but rather his poetry delivered in a frenzied spoken word manner that was more rhythmic than alliterative. His first major recording was a collaboration with KRS-One, “Ocean Within,” which appeared on the soundtrack to Slam, the award-winning film he not only co-wrote but starred in. Around this same time in the late ’90s, he began collaborating with other musicians, one of the more notable and impressive being the title track to drum’n’bass producer Krust’s Coded Language album. These one-off performances, along with the attention that Williams garnered thanks to Slam, led to a deal with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings. In late 2001, the long-awaited and much-hyped Williams solo debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, hit the streets. The album featured a full-scale band and Rubin’s production, with Williams’ manic vocals taking the fore. It wasn’t a straight-ahead rap album, but more rock-rap in the style of Rage Against the Machine. Critical opinion wavered, though Williams indeed seemed to impress many; he was not only invited to the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival but also found himself a popular concert draw in Europe. The 2003 release of Not in My Name on Synchronic found Williams being remixed by Coldcut and DJ Spooky. His 2004 self-titled release appeared on the Fader label. Three years later he would return with The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, an album recorded with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and initially offered as a free download from Reznor’s website. The album was released on CD in 2008. Williams continued to tour and collaborate with artists from all over the globe. He eventually signed to Sony’s Columbia imprint in 2010. He recorded Volcanic Sunlight — his debut for the label — in Paris with renowned producer Renaud Letang and engineer Thomas Moulin. The album was released in November of 2011. Williams then followed up with the conceptual album, MartyrLoserKing, in 2016, which was produced by Justin Warfield and released alongside an accompanying graphic novel.
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