Issue February 25, 2009

NGH WHT (The Dead Emcee Scrolls)

Saul Williams
saulwilliams.com

Saul Williams’s 2006 book has now been set to music by composer Thomas Kessler and performed by the Arditti String Quartet, with vocals, of course, handled by the author. Williams is one of the premier poets of this generation, who treats the art form not as a museum piece but as a modern, living thing, reflecting urban rhythms (small u, not the big U euphemism) with a loving sneer. The Dead Emcee Scrolls was Williams’s treatise and indictment on and of hip-hop. He can bring life and energy to his words in a way your own inner voice cannot. WHT is another ’net experiment, a la his last album, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead. This time it includes versions of music and voice, solo voice and instrumental all-in-one download. Kessler’s music is an abstract of modern composition. Hitchcockian strings add percussion and exclamation to Williams’s paranoid phrasings. Taken on its own, the music serves only as background, somewhat lost without the power of Williams’s words and voice. Altogether, NGH WHT is probably Saul’s strongest album to date.