The two albums from poet, playwright, actor, and antiwar activist Saul Williams represent only an incidental part of his appeal to many admirers. Thanks to his starring role as a drug-dealer-turned-writer in the influential 1998 film Slam
, which he also co-wrote,Williams became the figurehead of the poetry-slam movement that swept (and sometimes tormented) America during the late '90s, inspiring such spinoffs as Def Poetry Jam. The New York native has written three books of verse, including two put out by MTV's publishing arm; he makes regular appearances on the UPN sitcom Girlfriends
and has even come up with a one-man show that played off Broadway.
Williams' current national tour is divided between spoken-word and musical performances; in Cleveland, it'll be the latter, with songs likely to be drawn from his Rick Rubin-produced 2001 debut, Amethyst Rock Star, and last year's self-titled release on the Fader label. Employing hip-hop beats, but consistently subverting hip-hop expectations, Williams -- along with Michael Franti -- has become the true heir to Gil Scott-Heron, making a career at the often lonely intersection of music and poetry.