Celebrating Gil-Scott Heron On What Would've Been His 65th Birthday
Gil’s music has been sampled prominently many times on songs by high-profile artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Big K.R.I.T. But, in the world of samples, Gil is tied perhaps most closely to Kanye West, who sampled Gil’s “Home is Where the Hatred Is” on 2005’s Late Registration, and later sampled “Comment #1” (from Gil’s Small Talk on 125th & Lenox album) twice on 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As a gesture of acknowledgment and respect, Scott-Heron sampled Kanye’s “Flashing Lights” on his final album, 2010’s I’m New Here. Both Nas and Mos Def released official remixes of the single “New York is Killing Me,” from I’m New Here, receiving much praise.
Gil was heralded as a revolutionary for his ability to effectively formulate and communicate the feelings of the poor, African American communities of New York, and the greater United States. His delivery was also unique, in that it freely toggled back and forth between singing and spoken word poetry, leading many to cite him as the heaviest influencer on rap music.
On “Comment #1”—a commentary which partially focused on the 1970’s white college students who took up the anti-Vietnam War stance while ignoring the plight of blacks in America—he says emphatically,
“Your great grandfather tied a ball and chain to my balls and bounced me through a cotton field / While I lived in an unflushable toilet bowl / And now you want me to help you overthrow what?”
Scott-Heron was not without his own personal demons. He struggled with cocaine addiction, which landed him in jail. After being released, he announced being HIV positive in a 2008 interview. Ever perseverant, Scott-Heron continued performing and recording until his death in 2011. The following year, he was awarded the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today, XL Recordings, the label that released I’m New Here, has just announced a posthumous album, Nothing New, due out on Record Store Day, Apirl 19th; and today a new single, “Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams)” was released in conjunction with the Nothing New announcement. Listen below.