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Album review: Saul Williams, ‘MartyrLoserKing’

The latest album from poet, MC, and activist Williams is a Molotov cocktail aimed directly at our complacent, social media-obsessed culture numbed by easy distractions. While Kanye frets about his shrink’s kids and crashed Maybachs, Williams puts rappers and listeners on notice: Dig deeper, people. The album’s concept of an antihero hacker in Burundi is an allegory for the artist’s obligation to subvert convention and seek the truth. With a global focus, these songs pointedly and artistically confront government obfuscation and control, police overreach, and income inequality. The often elliptical lyrics are both penetrating and hypnotic — the sounds of words are as vital as their meaning. Williams has an acute understanding of the power of metaphor (“Burundi”) and repetition (“Down for Some Ignorance”). Without spoonfeeding or connecting the dots, he raises questions, sheds light, and probes with insight (“The Bear/Coltan as Cotton”). When producer Justin Warfield isn’t relying too heavily on ominous synthesizer drones, he emphasizes tribal rhythms and primal force, providing the proper aural setting for the MC’s incendiary provocations. KEN CAPOBIANCO

ESSENTIAL “The Bear/Coltan as Cotton”

Ken Capobianco can be reached at franznine@live.com.
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