Saul Williams On His Parents Teaching Him About Music And Politics

How did your parents inform your understanding of politics and social change?

Saul Williams: When I was in the third grade, I thought I either wanted to be an actor or a lawyer when I grew up. My mom told me to do my next school report on Paul Robeson, and it was that; it was the fact that my parents threw around names like Paul Robeson, invited guests to the house like Odetta, and someone like Pete Seeger was a regular member of my dad’s church where he was a pastor. I grew up around these people who always aligned their artistry with protest and so I just thought it was normal. The connection between protest and art always made sense to me; it was always about these visionaries who gave their lives in service to humanity. The freshest artists were always that — Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell — they all knew the world is bigger than just them. I couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their time singing about anything else when this is really where the iconic shit is.