Artist: Saul WilliamsTitle: The Dead Emcee Scrolls (Book)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Sidik Fofana
Now for our keynote author, Hip-Hop’s resident poet, Saul Williams. You might remember him from such works as acting in Slam (1998), performing alongside virtuous Hip-Hop acts like the Roots, Blackalicious, and Erykah Badu, or you just remember his face from New York Citys slam poetry circuit where he reigned in the mid to late 90’s. It’s 2006 and like a child to a window’s scent of apple pie, Saul Williams has returned. This year, he has blessed us with his fourth collection of poetry, the much necessary The Dead Emcee Scrolls.
The premise of the collection is that today’s MC is drowning in a body of water, and that fluid is the highly commercialized mainstream. Also, so as not to be dismissed with all the 106’ans and the Trill’ers and the Blingers who represent Hip-Hop today, Saul has chosen the written word as his weapon. The book’s first assassin is the epic poem NGH WHT and Williams is not afraid to attack Hip-Hop’s cliches head on, BCH NGH. Gun trigga. Dick’s bigga…” Written in the same bar form that gives rap music its notable rhythm, The Dead Emcee Scrolls reads like the astute liner notes to a lyrically sound album. The words flow so rhythmically that (as Saul himself suggests) they can be recited to a beat.
For those pro-content Hip-Hop heads expecting to hear the next ground shattering punchline between the swabs of your headphones, you might want to do a music fast and pick up this book. This collection contains ill wordplay, brilliant metaphors, and takes Hip-Hop’s most common household terms and gives them some new light (“John The Boom Baptist”). “I’m falling up flights of stairs. Scraping myself from the sidewalk. Jumping from rivers to bridges. Drowning in pure air,” Williams confesses in NGH WHT. Filled with words of Black empowerment and journal excerpts from 1995 on, Saul Williams identifies why and when Hip-Hop personally ceased giving him a fix.
The Dead Emcee Scrolls is a great attempt at curing these perceived ills that are infiltrating a music that was once the purest voice of the people. Sometimes however, Saul Williams goes off course and plays the armchair surgeon, doing more diagnosing than operating. Other than that, if you’re in a relationship with Hip-Hop and it starts to talk about your @ss too much or theatens to pull a gat on you, The Dead Emcee Scrolls is a good friend to talk it over with.