Like most motherfuckers when they’re way ahead of the game, when Saul’s debut came out it was met with mixed reviews. I heard the word “pretentious” whispered behind prying eyes of avid rap fans when they discussed this album. These idiots seem ridiculous in 20/20 now that the musical world is rich with poetic rappers you’ve got to listen to more than once to understand. But, at that time, this strange and extremely confining word had influence, even though the intended meaning was way fucking off. Pretentious: “Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.” In other words? Fronting. If one of those avid rap fans had said, “Yo, this album’s fronting.” They would have been met with list of arguments. Because Saul doesn’t front. This motherfucker doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. If he had tried to rap monosyllabically, without imagery, and talked about his “bitches and hoes” like all those other motherfuckers were doing at the time, then he would have been fronting. But these avid rap fans didn’t use the word “fronting”. Naw, by using the word pretentious they effectively shut the conversation down. This same one-two combo is used to this day. Because to argue against this kinda word is like popping champagne when everyone else has sat down to their beer. No matter what you say from that point on, you’re “that asshole”.
Saul had already won a handful of poetry awards before he got into hip hop. Dude made poetry slams, if you can believe it, look cool. He even got the lead role and wrote for a film called “Slam” all about this shit back in ’98 which won at Sundance and Cannes. Around this time he was touring with Zack De La Rocha, Blackalicious, The Fugees, Erykah Badu, De La Soul, and Mr. Howler himself (before his death) Allen fucking Ginsberg. And all this happened before he had dropped his first album. Was Saul fronting? Naw, this motherfucker was just on a whole other level.
As soon as Saul kicks off, you’ll understand the lyrical ooze you’ve stepped into. It takes time to digest. Don’t expect to get it on the first listen. There are so many examples of insane lyrics on this album that there’s no point pulling a single strand out and ruining the rug. Just listen to it for yourself. These are the kind of lyrics that stick to the bottom of your shoe, soak through the sole, and end up in your soul. And all of this is packed into Rick Rubin production. That’s dream team kinda shit. Not only is this album unbelievably good, it’s one of those albums that helped pave the way for future rappers to lay down their luscious and poetic rhymes. But even if you took one of the most lyrically dense and poetic pieces of work from nowadays and set it side-by-side with this shit, I don’t know who would win. But I do know that by the end I’d be a smarter, wiser, and generally all-around better looking. Fuck Maybelline. I wasn’t just born with this shit, it was Saul Williams.