March 18, 2014

This 1970 record made spoken word performer Gil Scott-Heron an influential figure:

Scott-Heron's work has influenced writers, academics and musicians from indie rockers to rappers. His work during the 1970s influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. He has been described by music writers as "the godfather of rap" and "the black Bob Dylan".

Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot comments on Scott-Heron's collaborative work with Jackson, "Together they crafted jazz-influenced soul and funk that brought new depth and political consciousness to ‘70s music alongside Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. In classic albums such as 'Winter in America' and 'From South Africa to South Carolina,' Scott-Heron took the news of the day and transformed it into social commentary, wicked satire, and proto-rap anthems. He updated his dispatches from the front lines of the inner city on tour, improvising lyrics with an improvisational daring that matched the jazz-soul swirl of the music".

Of Scott-Heron's influence on hip hop, Kot writes that he "presag[ed] hip-hop and infus[ed] soul and jazz with poetry, humor and pointed political commentary". Ben Sisario of The New York Times writes that "He preferred to call himself a "bluesologist," drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics". Tris McCall of The Star-Ledger writes that "The arrangements on Gil Scott-Heron's early recordings were consistent with the conventions of jazz poetry – the movement that sought to bring the spontaneity of live performance to the reading of verse".

On his influence, a music writer later noted that "Scott-Heron's unique proto-rap style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists". The Washington Post wrote that "Scott-Heron's work presaged not only conscious rap and poetry slams, but also acid jazz, particularly during his rewarding collaboration with composer-keyboardist-flutist Brian Jackson in the mid- and late '70s." The Observer's Sean O'Hagan discussed the significance of Scott-Heron's music with Brian Jackson, stating:

Together throughout the 1970s, Scott-Heron and Jackson made music that reflected the turbulence, uncertainty and increasing pessimism of the times, merging the soul and jazz traditions and drawing on an oral poetry tradition that reached back to the blues and forward to hip-hop. The music sounded by turns angry, defiant and regretful while Scott-Heron's lyrics possessed a satirical edge that set them apart from the militant soul of contemporaries such as Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield.
—Sean O'Hagan

Can you help us out?

For 17 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.

Discussion

New Commenting System

Our comments are now powered by Insticator. In order to comment you will need to create an Insticator account. The process is quick and simple. When registering you will also be presented with the option to tie all your old Disqus comments to your new Insticator account. Please note that the ability to comment with a C&L site account is no longer available.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.