(I'm French, please excuse the limitedness of my skills...)
I'd never heard of Saul Williams before this record. I wasn't really much into hip-hop, anyway. Well, on the other hand, I'm a NIN fan, so...
Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Reznor, I heard of the digital release of 'The Rise & Liberation of Niggy Tardust!'. I was quite thrilled at first at what could be seen as an Internet-scale experiment, with the 'pay and support an artist/don't pay but please spread the word' choice, etc.
So I was in.
And I didn't regret it. It even became of one those 'soundtrack of your life' albums you never stop listening to for months.
The NIN sound trademark is quite obvious throughout the album, especially with compositions such as 'WTF!' (where Trent Reznor makes a short guest appearance on vocals) and almost all of the five or six last tracks, replete with tortured sounds of strings, overdriven harmonies and bizarre beats. Despite this, the range of Reznor's talent and tastes allows much more than a NIN album with Saul Williams on vocals. Again, the sound production on this album shows the versatility of Reznor's work.
A blend of heavy hip-hop, old-school jazzy hip-hop, massive industrial beats, light, aerial melodies, grinding noises, and a more experimental aspect of fusion between poetry and rhythm; all of this sewn together by the poet himself, Saul Williams, equally at ease when rapping and singing his meaningful lyrics.
I cannot really compare this work to Saul Williams' previous ones, as I never listened to them... But I've got a more important criterion. This isn't an easy-to-listen album. You listen to it once, you put it aside for a week. Then you gradually come back to it, learning how to listen to it, realizing its qualities, enjoying while analyzing... That type of revelation doesn't happen all the time.
The alliance of the two musicians, the two universes, the two styles, produced a very interesting result, quite unique a mixture. It was a great discovery, to say the least.
Hat tip to the artists.