Album Reviews

Album Review: Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here (Beggars/XL Recordings)

By | Published on Tuesday 16 February 2010

Gil Scott Heron

In an age where revolutions are more likely to be tweeted than televised, 2010 may not be Gil Scott-Heron’s natural home.

Even the way music is consumed in the 21st century is something alien to the jazz/blues legend and hip hop godfather, who urges the listener to “turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles/Make yourself comfortable/Play your CD/LISTEN all the way through”. That he is slightly out of his comfort zone is specifically acknowledged by Heron, albeit via a Smog cover, with the declaration ‘I’m New Here’.

He returns fourteen years after his last recorded adventure with a sound nearly unrecognisable from his most successful efforts in the 70s, when his voice inspired a people, and his style began a genre. Turning full circle, though, Heron manages to stay relevant, partly by taking back from the music that owes so much to him.

With ‘Me And The Devil’ he almost adopts the dynamics of the darkest hip hop, with some DJ Shadow like rhythms in the mix. There are nods to the rap elite along the way too, with lyrics, samples and styles that bring to mind Kanye West, Nas and Talib Kweli. That said, while Heron never dwells on the past too long, he cites its importance, most evidently on the ode to his upbringing that is the two-parted ‘On Coming From A Broken Home’, where a grandmother’s love defies the “ologists” and academics.

An ultimate sound both new and old, relevant and brilliant. TM

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