The Rise and Rise of Niggy Tardust

Nike Boosts Fortunes of Hip-Hop Poet Saul Williams

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Saul Williams has come out a winner with his 'Niggy Tardust' album, possibly thanks to a halo effect from his song in a Nike spot.

Hip-hop poet and Trent Reznor protege Saul Williams has scored a big hit through licensing his song "List of Demands" to Nike for its SPARQ "My Better Is Better Than Your Better" spot.

The song, which comes from Williams' self-titled 2004 debut album, appears to have had a halo effect for his second album, the Reznor-produced and critically acclaimed "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust." The Nine Inch Nails frontman persuaded Williams to put out the album directly to fans with the option of a reduced-quality free version or a higher-quality $5 version, a similar formula to Radiohead's and a precursor to Reznor's own "Ghosts i-iv" album.

According to a story by rock critic Greg Kot in Friday's Chicago Tribune, sales of the downloaded album have been gradually creeping up since the Nike commercial began airing. As of today, 225,000 people have downloaded the album and 60,000 have paid the full price, which is double the amount that his first album has sold. The single track itself has also had more than 400,000 views on YouTube, and the digital single has been selling 10,000 copies a week since the ad first aired.

Williams has always been difficult to classify and package as an artist because of his eclectic nature; he mixes rap, poetry, hip-hop, industrial and various other genres. But he says he's delighted with the effects of the Nike ad. He told Kot: "And at the end of the day, it's been about the exposure. Not only the exposure to me and my music, but for me, who always falls in the category of being a 'message writer,' there are a lot of people being exposed to perhaps a new way of thinking, some new ideas, and that really excites me."

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