Point the first – 'MartyrLoserKing' is an album that makes you angry in the best possible way. Saul Williams' latest is a fevered slice of righteous rage moving at breakneck speed, filled to the brim with unsettling production and vivid imaginary. It’s an album made by an artist over musician, a political slap to the face, delivered by a character, as part of a larger multimedia project. It’s sci-fi, afro, poetry delivered with a snarl. This may not be for everyone, hell, it may only be for the brave, but if you take the ride you’ll be vastly rewarded.
Much like Nine Inch Nails’ conceptual ‘Year Zero’ (to which Williams contributed) this album holds a dark mirror up to our world while feeling more contemporary, replacing the near future with the sickening gap between the first and third worlds. With a rough story about Burundian hacker (the titular MartyrLoserKing) using the West’s tech waste to take on the CIA, NASA and more, the album creates a springboard to tackle surveillance, apathy, oversharing and ignorance.
This, of course. would be of no consequence if the songs weren’t there. Luckily, Williams is well versed in finding melody in anger. 'All Coltrane Solos At Once’ is a superb slice of dark hip-hop, guest vocalist Haleek Maul’s verse cutting through a sea of sirens and filthy beats. 'No Different’ is seductive 80s electro with the most bizarre backing vocals you’re likely to hear in 2016, seriously it’s worth a listen for this alone. The standout however comes from ‘Burundi’, a slowly building, orchestral number also featuring Emily Kokal. With its chant along “I’m a hacker, I’m a hacker in your hard drive!” and tribal-esque drums it’s the track which gets the album's message across most effectively.
After listening it dawns there’s been a real absence of these overtly political records of late, and you realise that is truly a terrible shame. We’re all aware that we live in a flawed world where intimacy, privacy and community seem to be diminishing but sometimes we need a record to grab us by the scruff and ask what the hell we’re going to do about it.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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