Conscious hip-hop artist Zanoni is gaining speed with his latest album “Begetting Barbelith“. As his work moves forward we wanted to have a conversation about the inspiring sounds and influences of his past. Not surprisingly legendary Saul Williams comes up quickly:
“Shortly after completing a month-long Tibetan Buddhist retreat in Nepal, Saul Williams’ “Amethyst Rock Star” came into my life. At that point, I was contemplating the idea of becoming a Buddhist monk and was thankfully diverted (as I look back) by Saul singing out, “Don’t save your soul/It’s our loss/Collective soul/Collective wealth” on the song “Wine”. I realized that I could serve a greater purpose by being in the world as opposed to dedicating my life to reclusive meditation.”
Zanoni’s fans and listeners worldwide are also very happy that he made the decision to share his voice with the world. What was the discovery of Saul Williams’ music like?
“Saul was the first lyricist I had ever heard who incorporated the Eastern philosophy I had recently read along with a whole slew of other references (see the song “Coded Language”) into hip-hop. He was the first emcee I had ever heard chant the word “Om” which he does on both the appropriately-titled track “Ohm” as well as my favorite “Untimely Meditations“. He broke through the boundaries of what can often be seen as a somewhat repressive, show-no-emotion genre of music.”
Is there a perfect example of his work that sticks out? Maybe a moment you would suggest to someone just starting to listen to Saul?
“On “1987“, he repeatedly shouts out sarcastically towards the end of the song, “Ignore the feminine side!” and, as he expressed through the song “Talk To Strangers” on his second album, “Vulnerability is power“. His willingness to speak the Truth inspired me to walk a similar path. It began with me writing somewhat didactic verses and then, after listening to enough Saul, Aesop Rock, and Freestyle Fellowship to scramble my logic, turned into what it is now.”
In what other ways has Saul inspired you?
“At the beginning of his career, Saul listed tons of book recommendations on his website, and that’s how I initially learned about “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda – a book which has had a profound effect on how I see the world. In some ways, Saul shouting out in the urban desert might’ve lead me back to Christ as well since, after a fair bit of spiritual seeking, that’s where I gratefully returned. Otherwise, I might currently have been a Buddhist monk, and you wouldn’t be reading this.”
“I feel so much gratitude towards Saul for being such an excellent vessel for God to work through and inspire others. He is most certainly the primary person that “Begetting Barbelith” is dedicated to.”