Columbia – 2001 – 58 minutes
In the 1960's, when political and social revolution were sweeping the world, the distinct voice of Gil Scott Heron emerged as one of the most pioneering figures of black American consciousness. His fusion of poetry and music had a catalytic effect on the outpouring of discontent and prejudice in 60s America.
Heron's critiques of racial injustice coupled with his ground-breaking delivery mark him out as one of originators of rap. And yet, as a poet and spoken word agitator, he fits less than comfortably into the rap genre. This founding father of social poetry has never really been toppled from his throne, despite the abundance of pretenders. Step up Saul Williams, a spoken word performer who vents spleen on his debut album 'Amethyst Rock Star'.
Williams shoots through the hoops of class-consciousness, race, family and love with all the sensitivity of a tabloid hack. His attempts to fuse words and rhythm are a dreadful cacophony of unordered ranting. The result is a hybrid of poor man's rap and substandard spoken word. There's no doubting Williams' obvious talent but his brash style frequently quashes what's good out of the songs. Interesting sentiments are enveloped by raucous ranting and ill-chosen beats; occasionally, he gets it right.
The maniacal strings of 'La La La' are hypnotic and 'Penny For A Thought' is aggressive but rhythmically engaging. 'The Tao of Now' polarizes blissful female vocals with drum 'n' bass breaks. One of the best things that can be said about this album is that it is sporadically reminiscent of the much under-rated MC 900 Feet Jesus. Williams undoubtedly deserves to do well, but he should calm down, work on his delivery and choose his accompanying music with a little more thought.
Tracklisting: La La La – Penny For A Thought – Robeson – Tao of Now – Fearless – Untimely Meditations – Om Nia Morican – 1987 – Coded Language – Our Father - Wine