Saul Williams, the “poet laureate of hip-hop,” is troubled by society’s rising reverence for ignorance and prestige. This is a stark departure from pop culture and music from the past, which laid more focus on rooting for the underdog and questioning authority. It’s this shifting cultural wave, coupled with the lack of worldly education, that Williams says explains the appeal of candidate Donald Trump, among other troubling trends.
Williams’ latest collection of poetry is titled US (a.).
Saul Williams: [Donald] Trump is not shocking to me because if you look at the signs, if you look at the signs as far as what’s been resonating with all different types of groups of people in America in terms of entertainment, in terms of literature, in terms of popular culture, and now in terms of politics, you know. Like why did the Tea Party thing resonate the way that it did for so many people? Because of ignorance. Beacuse of this haphzard ignorance. Because of a fear of looking at oneself in the mirror and clearly grasping the broader picture. When the Oprah Winfrey show was enormous and she had like racists and skinheads on, like Klan members and skinheads on once. And I remember her asking and the children are there who no longer identified with them. And there were three children on stage, I think. I mean I’m remembering from way back watching this thing as a kid and there were like three kids on stage who had all continued their education, right, and no longer identified with being racist or having parents in the Klan or their skinhead friends, right. And so she asked the audience who was composed of all Klan members and skinheads how many people here graduated from high school. Two or three raised their hands. How many of you went to college? Nobody raised their hands. Asked the three kids, you know, who no longer identified with their upbringing how many of you graduated from high school? How many of you went to college? So all of a sudden they have interacted with more people in their life. They got out of their little circle and suddenly saw the world differently.
That’s why cults try to keep you in. Try to keep you from seeing what’s out there so that you can maintain this perspective regardless of how warped it may be, you know. As you can see I’m really into the idea of education. I think it’s the key to all of this and I think when I see people following Trump, I think it’s just a lack of that, you know. It’s that simple. And because it’s funny. Because it’s funny. I mean we’ve learned to laugh at stupid shit, you know. Like I said we equate entertainment with escapism. Well what the fuck does that mean for Bob Marley? What the fuck does that mean for Nina Simone or Fela Kuti or Jim Morrison or The Beatles. Like these guys weren’t necessarily -- Bob Dylan -- these guys weren’t necessarily trying to escape. They were digging into what was happening in the culture. Like look at what’s happening around you. Look at what the fuck — I mean listen to the words of like "Satisfaction" by the Stones, you know. The man on the TV says this dah, dah, dah, dah. Like these are people who are counterculture even though, you know, questioning authority, questioning what’s going on, you know. Whereas now you have a pop culture that’s centered around this sort of thing of just like rooting for the winner, which is crazy to me. Like I thought you rooted for the like — for the underdog, you know.
But you look at like the thing in pop culture like Meek Mill and Drake for example, right. And people were like the guy who’s winning — that’s the guy I want to win, you know, as opposed to the guy who actually comes from the real fucked-up situation, who actually has something to say. No I want the guy who’s winning the win, you know. That’s where we are right now. It’s a fucked place in pop consciousness, you know, and Trump is the perfect example of that. Like we’re all like his fucking apprentice right now. It’s a damn shame. But it was a damn shame when he was on that show and everybody was fucking watching it. All that shit was a damn shame. This is the outcome of that. This is the outcome of that. The shit we were laughing at and calling our guilty pleasure, you know. So what do you fucking expect? What do you expect?
No he won’t get elected as president. He won’t. He won’t. I mean like if he does, call me back here and I’ll be like, "Oh, I don’t know." You’ll have to buy me an international ticket.