Zach De La Rocha, the former frontman of Rage Against the Machine, called Saul Williams's said the shotgun to the head "an invitation to live and die in the moment, a confrontation of the politics of empire, a dare to transform oneself in the face of fear, and a post-9/11 love song all in one." Thanks to the Kenneth V. Santagata Memorial Lecture Fund, Bowdoin students have a chance to see this landmark slam poet, considered one of the most familiar and critically acclaimed in America.

Williams first hit the slam poet stage when he won the 1996 Grand Slam Championship. He then went on to co-write and star in the film Slam, where he played an imprisoned street poet. The film won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and also received Sundance's Grand Jury Prize in 1998. Since then, Williams has written two other books of poetry besides said the shotgun to the head: She (1999) and The Seventh Octave (1998). He also recorded a self-titled album, an EP called Not In Our Name, and a full-length album, Amethyst Rock Star, which won "Album of the Year" from The Times of London. Williams's powerful beats, strong delivery, and thought-provoking poetry led CNN to dub him "hip-hop's poet laureate" during an interview in January 2005.

Williams's politically-charged poetry is filled with inventive imagery, making an indelible mark on his audience that is not easily erased after the curtain closes. Publishers Weekly called said the shotgun to the head "epic," dealing with American culture, black history, fame, and creativity. Williams drew on the past to better create that inventiveness, even quoting Paul Robeson, the 20th century author, actor, singer, and political activist. In these times, Williams saw Robeson as more relevant to American society because of his views on civil rights and Western culture.

When it came to crossing over from poet to hip-hop artist, Williams did find differences. In an interview with CNN, he said, "The strength and power of a poet is in the vulnerability. In hip-hop we say what? 'Act like you know.' The poet is one of the first people to say, 'I don't know.'" Williams's albums have an interesting way of mixing the two, adding the hip-hop beats to the poet's words. His influences are also unique, ranging from the rap and soul of Run-DMC and James Brown to the more lyric-focused music of Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, and Fiona Apple.

For Williams, hip-hop should be more than good dance music. "Hip-hop is still cool at a party," he said, "But to me, hip-hop has never been strictly a party; it's also there to elevate consciousness. What's wrong with hip-hop is the system that controls the definition of it." Again, with his focus on the words and inspiration of music, Williams told CNN that he believed life-changing music was still possible. "We all have different relationships with music. But the music is always there," he said. "Music controls those emotional strings, music is POW-ER. Legislation won't necessarily start a riot. But the riot song can make someone pick up a chair."

To experience Williams's idea of life-changing words and music, pick up a free ticket for his show at Pickard on April 7 at 7:30 p.m.