‘Godfather of Rap’: Gil Scott-Heron

I was sad to hear this morning that Gil Scott-Heron had died, aged 62. The cause of which is not clear. A truly pioneering man, he was described as ‘The Godfather of Rap’ and his work strongly influenced the US hip-hop and rap scenes in the 1970s. He also worked with blues, soul and jazz. He developed his style of minimalist percussion and poetry with Brian Jackson, whom he met at Lincoln University. Born in Chicago, he moved to Tennessee, then to New York, struggling with drink and drugs for a long time, something about which he was always honest. Scott-Heron’s music was often political and focused on civil rights, justice and anti-consumerism. He attacked the mass media and advertising with; ‘The Revolution Shall Not Be Televised’. He wanted to give a voice to those who held no potential of being publicised. Scott-Heron used words as a tool of communication, influence and inspiration.

“Because I always feel like running
Not away, because there is no such place
Because if there was, I would have found it by now
Because it’s easier to run,
Easier than staying and finding out you’re the only one who didn’t run
Because running will be the way your life and mine will be described,
As in “the long run”
Or as in having “given someone a run for his money”
Or as in “running out of time”
Because running makes me look like everyone else, though I hope there will ever be cause for that
Because I will be running in the other direction, not running for cover
Because if I knew where cover was, I would stay there and never have to run for it
Not running for my life, because I have to be running for something of more value to be running and not in fear
Because the thing I fear cannot be escaped, eluded, avoided, hidden from, protected from, gotten away from,
Not without showing the fear as I see it now
Because closer, clearer, no sir, nearer
Because of you and because of that nice
That you quietly, quickly be causing
And because you’re going to see me run soon and because you’re going to know why I’m running then
You’ll know then
Because I’m not going to tell you now”

— Gil Scott-Heron (Now and Then: The Poems of Gil Scott-Heron)

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