Author: Joseph Giannone
Gil Scott-heron passed away on Friday May 27th at the age of 62. Scott was a musician who stood out as a visionary artist that helped form the groundwork of hip-hop. His music was transcendental and helped move along social justice for black Americans in a post-civil rights world. His music not only preached equality among men, but it helped define a generation of musicians seeking to break the mold and make a statement. The musician used minimalistic drum beats, spoken word poetry, and funk progressions to create a new form of music that hadn’t been heard till then, hip-hop.
With his most well known album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, Heron created a visionary work of proto-rap that brought together funk, jazz, and spoken word combinations that is still described by many as the first rap album. According toThe Washington Post Heron had been battling HIV for years, but still put out an enormous catalog of work. He even had a troubling addiction with crack-cocaine that led to a stay in jail. This did not affect Heron’s career though, his last album was a collaboration with Jamie xx which was titled We’re Still Here, a reworking of Scott-Heron’s acclaimed album I’m New Here. The album was released in February 2010.
Not only did Scott-Heron aid in the civil rights of his brothers, but his music was also politically charged as well. He spoke out against nuclear arms, and the apartheid in South Africa. Throughout his career, he recorded well over a dozen albums, and wrote fiction and poetry. When he was 19 Heron published his first book which was a murder-mystery called The Vulture. The causes of his death are still unknown, but on behalf of all music enthusiasts out there, we thank you for all your visionary work in music, Mr. Scott-Heron.
Side Note: Hip-hop is not what it used to be.
Today, if you asked somebody what their favorite hip-hop artists were, they would probably say: Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Big Boi, Whiz Khafilia, or heavens forbid Mac Miller. These rappers are unlike Scott-Heron. Their messages are simply for getting high, how much money they have, and hitting on “bitches.” These “artists,” they don’t create music that is socially relevant. Instead of writing about the problems we face in society, or how Americans are being screwed by their government and atheists are second class citizens; these pseudo musicians are deliberately trying to not influence society, but halt It from evolving.
Whatever happened to the message? The message of: if we can change society with the inspiration from artists, the filmmakers, and the musicians who are willing to break the mold, then maybe we can help evolve our culture. It’s a sad reality, but modern day Hip-hop is not concerned with that message. Gil-Scott Heron was one of those artists who believed in the power of musc, the statement you can tell the world through art. He also just happened to help create one of the most popular genres of music today that doesn’t have the same motivations he had or messages he spoke. In memory for the father of hip-hop, here’s one of his most famous songs, which started the trend of rap as we know it, and spoke of: civil rights, black justice, war, hippies, and government. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”: