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With 'MartyrLoserKing,' Saul Williams Aimed To Make A Modern-Day Parable

Saul Williams' new album is <em>MartyrLoserKing</em>.
Geordie Wood
Courtesy of the artist
Saul Williams' new album is MartyrLoserKing.

Saul Williams is a man with a message — and he'll will use any medium available to share that message. As a writer and poet he's published five books, including The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop. As an actor he's appeared in film and television, and recently starred in Holler If Ya Hear Me, a broadway musical featuring the music of Tupac Shakur.

A thread of activism runs at through all of Williams' work. His most recent release is an album called MartyrLoserKing, whose lyrics speak to social injustice and inequality on a global scale while scrambling past and present themes together.

"In my project, 'MartyrLoserKing' is the screen name of a hacker living in Burundi, who becomes sort of a virtual phenomenon — kind of like a virtual Banksy — until he is labeled as a terrorist," he explains. "The idea for the title came about when I was living in Paris and hearing Francophone people mispronounce 'Martin Luther King.' I went home and reflected on it and was like, 'That's brilliant.' "

Williams spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin about choosing to set his story in Central Africa, an area rich with resources but beset by exploitation. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

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