OKP Exclusive: Saul Williams Speaks On The Legacy Of MLK, Jr. + New LP 'MartyrLoserKing'
In just over a week, the audio-loving world will have a new project from Saul Williams in the form of MartyrLoserKing--or should we say MLK, for short? His sixth (yes, sixth!) studio album is multi-dimensional, multimedia and conceptual to the point of overload, as we've always known Saul Williams to be over the years.
On MartyrLoserKing, Williams adopts the persona of a Burundian miner-turned-hacker who starts a revolution from his computer and has already shared with Okayplayer some details of the interactive and visual-narrative elements that will live alongside the music. Fusing his progressive poetry and lullabies with melancholy melodies, dissonant polyrhythms and uptempo breakbeats (yes--we've heard it--more on that soon!) MartyrLoserKing is a bold new direction for Williams but retains the brilliance of The Inevitable Rise and Liberation Of NiggyTardust, which balances a masterful unfolding of the overall concept with restless sonic experimentation.
As Williams showcases a return to form with his newest effort, one of our most poignant thinkers and speakers linked with Okayplayer to talk about how the legacy of another great thinker and speaker--and, lest we forget, martyr —the original MLK, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fed the concept of MartyrLoserKing:
OKP: Besides the MLK reference, the title MartyrLoserKing brings to mind the age-old theme of the Sacral King, who is both holy but also expected to suffer and die for his people--was that something on your mind in choosing the title?
Saul Williams: While it is true that MartyrLoserKing is a virtual shaman, he holds no true monarchal position, nor does he crave one. His work (as a hacker in the imagined and forthcoming graphic novel) is symbolic of a movement of which he is neither the leader, nor the sole member of importance. In truth, the idea behind, "I'm a candle--Chop my neck a million times, I still burn bright and stand," is the end of martyrdom. We witness today, how a cell or a movement with no leader, that is strong on the ideological envisioning and deconstruction of the dominant narrative, can propel itself beyond the limits of power through the continual upgrading of awareness, talking points, and a means of confrontation.
We are re-designing the interface of human interaction. Simultaneously, we see those who identify as martyrs through misconstrued interpretations of ancient text or ideas and impose their world view (and damnation) through violence. There is great confusion. The Americanization and globalized corporate re-imagining of the world is not to be confused with the evolving voice of humanity as it fights for greater transparency, representation and freedom. The restrictive domination of leaders, governments and corporations that have engaged in the exploitive divisiveness of maintaining control and power cannot operate in the same way.
In short, we're too smart for that and have outgrown it. Thus, protesters in Burundi, standing up against dictatorship; protesters in the U.S, speaking up against a corrupt criminal justice system; protesters in Saudi Arabia, fighting for the right to drive and travel without male permission have all simply reached a point where the old systemic ideologies have expired and are not fuly operational with our new browsers... the way we look at life and the world.
All of this is evidenced through technology and the new terminology that is born out of the widening of the margins. Yes, there are individuals that have played key roles in our societal transformation, but the fear of the power is that our demands are coming from everywhere at once.
OKP: The play on "Martin/Martyr"; "Luther/Loser" also suggests that MLK was (or has been made into) a sacrificial king for modern America. Is there any truth in that and how do you engage with King's legacy in 2016?
SW: Yes, I identify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of many MartyrLoserKings. He dedicated his life in service to humanity. He was clear on the fact that he might not live to see the change for which he fought, but was able to articulate a clear enough vision that it embedded itself into the hearts and minds of the nation and the world. There have been many that played this role, both consciously and by default. MLK's legacy is now a model of inspiration for strategizers and even those who do not or cannot agree with his methodology. One might also argue that we are more fed up now than ever before. It's exhausting to realize how symbolic change does not yield structural change, or to see how intense the fight to hold on to old values, unquestioned, continues to cost us our livelihood and, in many cases, our lives.
The power in today's movement (U.S.) is centered around those who by the simple default of belonging to a pre-judged, disenfranchised group--the pre-ordained "Loser"--refuting their position in a society that boasts equality and justice. Our newfound ability to document case after case of injustice and murder by the officers and overseers of systemic power is proving to make our case irrefutable. We have always had the capacity to overturn tables and overcome obstacles, as individuals, but we move now collectively with injustice on display for the world to see. It will be much harder for the powers that be to stop us, but they will try, just as corporations with earnings at stake try to refute climate change. So, we've entered virtual and actual warrior mode!
MartyrLoserKing is the last fuck I have to give.
This album is the first installment and there will be more... but with even less fucks.
Listen to "Sinners Vs. The Losers" below, and keep an eye out for more on MartyrLoserKing before it becomes available on January 29th.