The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust

By Rema Rahman for Blend Music on November 7, 2007

When was the last time you skipped through a mall while unwrapping the plastic on a new CD? Almost as long as the last time you saw a music video on TV, huh? Personally, I can't even find what I'm looking for in a record store anymore, or find a record store for that matter.

As more and more bands give major record labels the big Screw You, CD purchases have become even fewer and far between. Everyone now welcome the latest artist to join the bandwagon: Saul Williams and his new download-only album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!

Coming off the success of his 2004 self-titled record, Williams teams up with Trent Reznor, who now finds himself primarily behind the boards as producer. To experience the collaboration best, start with the gangsta rap sample opening of “Tr(n)igger.” After that, check out my personal favorite “WTF!” which has Reznor using piano. As intriguing as that may sound, there is a lot more Fragile-era sounds laced with Williams' rich poetic lyrics to come.

Does the album title sound familiar? Think, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust about which Williams told Billboard“came about as a joke, but there is definitely a strong concept running through the record. I created the character because I felt like there was nothing that was speaking to my experience as an African-American.” Reznor says he meant to send Bowie a copy but “then the phone rang and I got distracted." Way to go!

In keeping with the release-your-own-album theme of 2007, the record is only available at niggytardust.com where you can either get it for free or pay to support Saul himself. (Support, I say!) Reznor says they toyed around with the idea of giving the record away before Radiohead made it the cool thing to do, but decided to go full steam ahead after the success of the In Rainbows downloads.

Reznor as producer and sometimes vocalist – it’s almost impossible to tell them apart at times especially during the cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”- seems like he sometimes played therapist as well. Last year, Williams told MTV that some of Reznor’s tracks got the hiphop star a bit teary eyed. “Some of the tracks he gave me took me to places emotionally, sometimes dark or sometimes new, that I have never been to," Williams said. "It was frightening to me… I was venturing into a place that could make me cry nonstop, and I felt so far from home, so far from hip-hop." It’s ok Saul, he does it to us all.

View the NIN Hotline article index