Gilbert Scott-Heron was an American soul and jazz poet, musician and author.
His efforts featured a musical fusion of blues and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles.
Scott-Heron is considered by many to be the first rapper/MC ever. It is said that his aggressive, no-nonsense street poetry inspired a legion of intelligent rappers while his engaging songwriting skills placed him in the R&B charts later in his career. However, his own term for himself was “bluesologist“, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues”.
Since the early ’70s we all knew because of Gil that the revolution would not be televised. We knew about Detroit. We knew this ain’t really life, this ain’t nothing but a movie. A B-movie. We knew and were changed by what he knew. He changed our world. And we danced to those changes. We knew that voice, pitched low but light. Revolution was irresistible once you heard that. It was anger as seduction, and in between songs he would talk and talk in a way that you could listen to forever.
But what do I know, except that most of the much-touted new conscious hip-hop has yet to reach the level he was 40 years ago? Not only his early music was groundbraking and timeless but, the way i see it, his last album is evidence that he evolved while keeping his young and curious mindset up until the end.
Others more qualified than me can tell you the hows and whys of the music and its making. For me his album, Me and the Devil, where he claims the blues and takes them from the past into the future is genius, pure and simple. “I can take care of you,” he sings. He couldn’t take care of himself. He sounds and looks a thousand years old. This is a record of pain and immense power.
Music is always a collaboration and he always acknowledged this. Personally i truly believe he was the “godfather of rap” shaping the genre and on this occasion, i compiled a playlist with my favourite oldschool MCs who might have been inspired by Heron. Enjoy!