By Tessa Solomon | Tessa-Solomon@uiowa.edu
Saul Williams has transfixed audiences from the Louvre to the White House, and collaborated with artists from Nas to Nine Inch Nails. On Saturday night, he took the stage at the Mill. He did not greet the crowd, only took a swig of his beer, approached the mic, and delved into his poem. His hands whipped the air as he wove his spoken word song.
Out of the many performers gracing the Mission Creek festival lineup, few defy easy definition like New York native Williams. An actor, poet, and musician, he is a traveled man. As an MFA acting candidate at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, he was already making a name in the NY cafe open mic poetry scene, eventually earning the title of Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s Grand Slam Champion. He was also breaking into the music scene with his evocative mix of spoken word and experimental hip hop, working with artists like Erykah Badu and The Fugees.
His resume does not end there, also acting on Broadway in Holla if Ya Hear Me and in films like Slam.
Now, after traveling to more than 30 countries, he had the mill’s crowd spellbound. His mouth moved faster than thought, spitting and spilling advocacy and outcry.
“This is my blood shed for you motherf–ers who are undeserving,” he hissed to the crowd. “These motherf–ers are too loud and can’t hear myself in the wind.”
One woop is loosed.
His fervent poem climaxed, and died.
There was silence from the crowd.
Then he laughed. With a bright grin he said, “Yeah, poetry.”
From there his show became a mix of slam poetry and song, though often the difference was indiscernible. Between each he laughed and conversed with the crowd, then dove into a piece, eyes suddenly wide, hands dancing, veins strained and popping.
The mantra of one his songs repeated, “I am a candle, cut my neck and I burn bright and stand still.”
In explanation he said, “A leaderless movement cannot be quelled.”