Photo by Mischa Richter
Gil Scott-Heron is a jazz musician, songwriter, poet and novelist, who is often referred to as the godfather of rap, because he was reciting poetry over music, in his case a soulful jazz/blues, in the Seventies, forging the path ahead. His raps were never hos and guns, but were calls for justice, outraged warnings that a time of reckoning was coming, musings on urban street life. These were accompanied by strong percussion beats with lyrical saxophone and flute lines, while he accompanied himself on an electric keyboard. Compositions like ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and ‘The Bottle’, his anti-nuclear power track, or his anti-apartheid ‘Johannesburg’ were widely hailed and heard.
Scott-Heron has always been the real deal, and he still is judging by his new album, I’m New Here. It’s his first since 1994, and he’s spent some of the intervening years doing jail time for possession of cocaine. Drugs may have caught him round the ankles, but his voice still soars and dives, filling and driving the musical space around him. At 60 years old, he is as dark and down as ever, and if some of his work is more personal than political these days, it should still make for a fine evening.
Gil Scott-Heron: May 4th, 9.30pm, Bikini