I’ll admit, when it comes down to buying poetry books, I am very reluctant. That’s the main reason there are no Saul Williams books in my collection. Although his two albums and various guest appearances are spectacular, not to mention the performance in Slam, I always wondered if reading Saul’s poetry would have the same profound and awe-inspiring effect on me. I will find out soon enough because the first few paragraphs of the intro to his new book made me purchase a copy. Be sure you don’t miss the rest of the extensive excerpt by following the link.

One of America’s bestselling contemporary poets, Saul Williams plans to release The Dead Emcee Scrolls, his third work from MTV Books, on February 1st, 2006. Here, Williams blends thought-provoking commentary on the cultural and personal impact of rap with his signature brand of spellbinding poetry.Building on the tale of the Saul’s discovery of an ancient scroll hidden beneath a graffiti masterpiece in an abandoned subway line, the book blends commentary on the cultural and personal impact of rap with Williams’s signature brand of poetry.

Taken from press release

A Confession

There is no music more powerful than hip-hop. No other music so purely demands an instant affirmative on such a global scale. When the beat drops, people nod their heads, “yes,” in the same way that they would in conversation with a loved one, a parent, professor, or minister. Instantaneously, the same mechanical gesture that occurs in moments of dialogue as a sign of agreement which subsequently, releases increased oxygen to the brain and, thus, broadens one’s ability to understand, becomes the symbolic and actual gesture that connects you to the beat. No other musical form has created such a raw and visceral connection to the heart while still incorporating various measures from other musical forms that then appeal to other aspects of the emotional core of an individual. Music speaks directly to the subconscious. The consciously simplified beat of the hip-hop drum speaks directly to the heart. The indigenous drumming of continental Africa is known to be primarily dense and quite often up-tempo. The drumming of the indigenous Americas, on the other hand, in its most common representation is primarily sparse and down-tempo. What happens when you put a mixer and cross-fader between those two cultural realities? What kind of rhythms and polyrhythms might you come up with? Perhaps one complex yet basic enough to synchronize the hearts of an entire generation.

To program a drumbeat is to align an external rhythmic device to an individual’s biorhythm. I remember being introduced to the hip hop/electronica sub-genre, drum and bass, by one of its pioneers, Goldie. I accompanied him to his DJ set at the London club, the Blue Note. After about an hour of him staring straight into my eyes, gold teeth glaring, miming or pointing to every invisible, yet highly audible, bass line, kick, snare, and high hat, he took me outside and instructed me to monitor my heartbeat so that I might note that the intensity of the music in the club had actually sped it up so that my heart was, now, pounding — a sort of high speed drum and bass metronome. I had been re-programmed (note: it was a high-speed wireless connection). Did it affect how I thought? I don’t know, but surely, the potential was there. The music of that night had been mostly without lyrics. But if there were lyrics, could they have affected me on a subconscious level in the same way that the music itself had affected me on a subatomic level? Who knows? What I do know is that I have been a hip hop head for years. I have nodded my head to the music that initially affirmed my existence as an African American male. And then, of course, as the music grew more openly misogynistic and capitalistic, I found myself being a bit more picky about exactly what I would choose to nod my head to. It was difficult. Sometimes the beats were undeniable. Regardless, even though I always sensed the power of the music, even though I remember the few hip-hop songs that brought tears to my eyes because they went beyond speaking of the power of the music and hinted at the power of our generation, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the story that I am about to share. Read the rest of excerpt