Hip-hop is dead. Rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Hell, genre itself is dead. As dead as democracy in America. This is the premise of Saul Williams’s second album, and after approximately 50 listens, I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, the local poet-actor-activist-rapper-rocker thinks we should do about it. Apparently it involves getting rid of our egos, getting fucked up, and getting angry. Very angry. “Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)” is probably the angriest song I’ve heard all year, loaded with anti-imperialist knowledge dropped by Williams over industrial G-funk beats from Anticon producer Thavius Beck. “If you have tears prepare to shed them now. For you share the guilt of blood spilt in accordance with the Dow,” he seethes, then drags Zack de la Rocha out to shout the chorus. Elsewhere, he channels that rage into outer-space dub, clanging Dizzee Rascal bling, woozy gothic ambience, sludgy Bad Brains hardcore, and, in “List of Demands (Reparations),” steely punk-funk bounce that slays anything by Franz Ferdinand.
Before November 2, I interpreted Saul Williams as a sign that all this anger could be galvanizing—maybe even world-changing. Now I’m sensing less and less hope in it. Those beats sound like shotguns. Those guitars thirst for blood. That voice is sick of all that crunchy-hippie unity shit. But maybe that’s just what I want to hear.