Saul Williams Credit: Geordie Wood

Saul Williams is a one-man multimedia juggernaut: he’s had successful careers as a screenwriter and actor, but he’s earned his greatest fame as a poet and MC. His new sixth studio album, Encrypted and Vulnerable (Pirates Blend), includes a track whose title aptly sums up his musical evolution: “Experiment.” Though Williams’s first major recording was a collaboration with KRS-One (“Oceans Within,” from the soundtrack to the 1998 film Slam, which Williams cowrote and starred in), he has largely bypassed the usual musical routes followed by hip-hop artists. His earliest albums are heavily rock influenced, and feature his distinct linguistic flow—he sounds like he’s reciting the words to his songs rather than chanting in rhythm. Encrypted, the second in a series of three albums that are part of Williams’s multitiered MartyrLoserKing project, has a more pronounced electronica feel, with less emphasis on percussion and more on his voice—which is often altered with electronic effects until it feels like another instrument in the mix. He soars over the keyboards in “Before the War” like a one-man string section, while on “People Above the Moon” he overdubs layers of backing vocals to create sweet harmonies with his leads. Williams can also use his voice as a weapon if he has to—his towering sense of dynamics gives even his whispers the same weight as shouts.   v