MartyrLoserKing is Saul Williams' latest effort to examine the societal disconnect by way of speaking truth to power. Part of a multimedia project (which includes a play and graphic novel), it's based on the story of a hacker in an impoverished nation state; the album bats around the theme of hacking the consciousness to re-examine the dysfunctional world around us. The wilfully genre-agnostic Williams is best defined as a slam poet attuned to specific musical influences — rap, soul, punk — who is all about challenging society to question itself, its leaders and its systems. It's heady stuff to dive into, and Williams isn't particularly concerned whether listeners sink or swim, so long as they get wet.
The charged up vibe on opener "Groundwork" feels like a sonic baptism, setting the stage for the sermon that is to come. A track like "Think Like They Book Say" is best representative of the "genre be damned" approach, riding an urgent hip-hop beat with a chaotic soul-rock feel. The keys-driven "Horn Of The Clock-Bike" hits with urgency as he sings "Blue for the water / Red for the daughter." Warpaint's Emily Kokal lends vocals on "Burundi," an ominous, ambitious "question authority" number with strident lyrics like "I'm a hacker runnin' through your hard drive." "People share too much," he intones on "The Bear / Coltan as Cotton," speaking on the modern-day social media practice of oversharing despite having nothing to say. This theme is followed up with the "five million followers" chant on the anthemic "Roach Eggs."
Williams is a "master of space and time," to borrow a lyric from "Horn Of The Clock-Bike," a true revolutionary in a world that needs one but doesn't know it yet. The age of information hasn't revealed knowledge, Williams maintains, it's only provided more ways to conceal it; MartyrLoserKing is a vibrant effort to shine a light with the hope that people go towards it. (Pirates Blend)