April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011
Gil Scott-Heron was an American poet, musician, and author who has been called the “Godfather of Rap” due to the social and political commentary of his work as well as the vocal delivery with which he presented his songs. Had there been such a word during the early ’70s, his spoken word over a jazz backdrop would have been called “rap.” These early recordings were the foundation on which rap, hip-hop, and neo-soul were built. In 1970, he released a song/poem entitled “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” which many consider the exact moment at which hip-hop was born even though we wouldn’t know it for at least another 10 years. Throughout the late ’70s and ’80s, Scott-Heron lent his voice to political and social causes like the 1979 No Nukes Concert and 1985′s Artists United Against Apartheid’s Sun City benefit album. Scott-Heron spent a good part of the 2000s in jail due to various drug related charges, but in 2010, his career experienced a renaissance when he was signed to hip independent label, XL Recordings, home to such artists as Adele, the XX, Vampire Weekend, and Sigur Ros. His label debut, I’m New Here, which was his first album in 16 years, turned him on to a whole new generation of both hip-hop fans and hipsters alike. On May 27, 2011, it was announced that Gil Scott-Heron, age 62, passed away in a New York City hospital earlier that day. Cause of death was not immediately released.