Saul Williams on Macy Gray: … excerpted from the September 2001 issue of Interview magazine.
SW: You seem to focus a lot on self-expression and exploring your taboos on the album. Are you OK with discussing some taboo issues?
MG: Of course.
SW: Do drugs play a role in your creative life?
MG: There are a few songs — probably the majority of the album — that were written when I was a little, you know, beyond. I think what drugs do is send you to places that you normally don’t go and you can see things from a different perspective.
SW: Do you think that the use of hallucinogens in the black community could have a powerful effect on how black people perceive their experiences? Especially with all that talk about “keeping it real” — what if reality was altered a little bit?
MG: I don’t know, but speaking for myself, it happened to me when I was at USC, which was mostly white. One time when I was on acid at a party, I had this big revelation that because I was one of the only black people in the crowd — the only one who had what I had — I was powerful. That was the first time I completely flipped being black. And I’ve thought that way ever since.
SW: How dominant was the issue of race when you were growing up?
MG: My mother was an activist in our city [Canton, Ohio], and I was always really proud to be black. But I went to a boarding school with all these rich white kids. I think there were about 12 black people in the whole school. So even if you are proud of who you are and where you come from, [in a mostly white environment] you still have to do with subtle insults and being slighted. So I’m just saying that that [experience] was the first time I saw that for myself — that I felt powerful.
SW: Do you think that black people are free?
MG: No. We’ve been so sucked into what society has brainwashed us to be — you know, that slave mentality, that we’re secondary. And I think subconsciously most of us have bought into it. But I think society has given us everything it’s going to. No more emancipations of freedom or whatever else we feel they owe us. If we want to go any further, we have to emancipate ourselves, and think about ourselves differently.