HoopsVibe sits down with Saul Williams One-On-One
HoopsVibe caught up with writer, artist, activist, musician, and actor, Saul Williams on his recent spoken word tour.
HoopsVibe’s Very Quick Call: Williams is one of our generation’s most influential writers.
Saul Williams first exploded on the spoken word scene in 1996 with the documentary “SlamNation.” He quickly went on to write and star in the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize winning movie “Slam.” To say Williams left his mark on the spoken word and slam poetry community is like saying Michael Jordan was kind of a big deal in basketball. Williams redefined what it meant to be a writer, poet, and lyricist for an entire generation by bluring the lines between hip hop, poetry, and art.
Williams was quickly recognized for his lyrical prowess and appeared on numerous Hip Hop and rap recordings including Lyricist Lounge Volume One. Nas called him, “Every kind of great artist combined into one.” With praise like that from one of hip hop’s living legends, it’s easy to see why HoopsVibe was excited to talk with Saul on his spoken word tour following his most recent publication “Chorus: A Literary Mixtape.”
HV: Basketball is seen in a lot of urban communities as a great hope or way out. Do you see basketball as a positive thing for these communities?
Saul: I see it as largely unrealistic, but sports have a positive effect overall. They give us ways of fueling our energy. Things like sports and dancing give us great outlets, but people don’t understand the real level of commitment it takes to be great at them. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 Hour Rule. This basically says that it takes 10,000 to master a skill. Most people don’t understand and appreciate how much time and commitment it takes basketball players to master their skill.
HV: Do you see Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule applying to artists too?
Saul: Absolutely. I think it applies to everything I’ve done with poetry and writing.
HV: Do you think you’ve put in 10,000 hours?
Saul: I was putting in those hours without even realizing it. I was always reading as a kid. I always had a book with me when I was on the bus or anywhere I went. I put in those 10,000 hours as I was growing up every day.
HV: You don’t write about basketball or sports in your work. Were sports influential to you growing up?
Saul: I grew up playing basketball, soccer, and tennis. I was very athletic. I really loved soccer, but I got to a certain age where I realized I was the only back kid on the team and I didn’t want to be that so I stopped playing.
HV: A lot of your work is seen not only as a reflection of your life, but on a larger experience. What role do you see basketball players having in this experience?
Saul: Celebrity is bewildering and strong. It can be used for a lot of great things. It can be used to pump up education. Images of LeBron reading before games are great. Shaq going back to school and getting his degree is a positive reflection of that.
HV: Switching gears for a second, we know that you now live in France, how closely have you been following politics in the United States?
Saul: I’ve been extremely involved. It give perspective to everything. It’s like looking at earth from space. If anything I am more in tune living in France.
HV: Ok, so what are your thoughts on President Obama so far?
Saul: It’s a good start. I like what he is attempting to accomplish with healthcare. There are flaws in the system. They will find them and address them, but at least he is trying to address the problem. I believe in big government, but I am also opposed to war in any form. I think the people that say they are disappointed in President Obama are naive. This is a democracy. He is not a dictator and he needs consensus to get things done. If I was going to give him grades:
Immigration: B Immigrants need a path to full citizenship.
War: C As I mentioned I am opposed to war in any form.
Women’s Rights A-
Gay Rights: A-
HV: Ok, we know you’re currently in the middle of a spoken word tour. What do you enjoy the most about performing in this medium?
Saul: It’s refreshing. I am truly alone. A lot of the venues don’t even have a mic. There are less barricades between me and the audience. In most venues I ask if there are any other poets in the room. Then I’ll have some of them come up and shre their work too. Everything is more accessible and interactive in this way.
HV: I know you’re a huge reader, so we’re curious what is the last book you read?
Saul: “Alif The Unseen” by Willow Wilson and “Prince of Cats” by Ron Wimberly both are amazing.
Photo Credit: WENN, Saul Williams.