Saul Williams: Tiny Desk Concert In this intense performance, you can feel the singer and poet's passion in every sharp, thoughtful, powerful, provocative word.

Tiny Desk

Saul Williams

In terms of sheer intensity, Saul Williams' Tiny Desk concert may be the most potent in our eight-year history. Only Kate Tempest comes to mind as its equal, which makes sense given that both mix music with bracing, truthful poetry. In Williams' opening song — "Burundi," from his album MartyrLoserKing — the main character is a computer hacker who lives in Burundi and fights for democracy:

Question your authority, genocide and poverty

Treaties don't negate the fact you're dealing stolen property

Hacker, I'm a hacker, I'm a hacker in your hard drive

Hundred thousand dollar Tesla ripping through your hard drive

Accompanied by two acoustic guitars as they pound out a beat, Williams became ever more animated, riled and firm. Then, "Think Like They Book Say" paid homage to Chelsea Manning, the soldier serving a prison sentence for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. To close out the set, Williams cradled my James Brown doll and issued a powerful, somewhat off-the-cuff version of "Down For Some Ignorance." It brought him to tears, and you could feel his passion in every word — sharp, thoughtful, deeply powerful and utterly provocative.

MartyrLoserKing is available now (iTunes) (Amazon).

Set List
  • "Burundi"
  • "Think Like They Book Say"
  • "Down For Some Ignorance"

Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Niki Walker; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Kara Frame; Production Assistant: Becky Harlan; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.

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