Black Hero of the Day: Gil Scott-Heron

By Akim Hudson

Another year has come to pass, which means that another Black History Month is in effect. 

Within this month, long reflection and observation of excellence, eminence and significance of a phalanx of Black figures, who have not yet been emblazoned to the extent in which they should. This series will include entertainers, activists in all departments, political advocates, artists, athletes and pop culture icons.  

Today’s Black hero is Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron was a poet, pro-Black human rights activist, jazz artist and soul artist. In short—Scottt-Heron was a jack of all trades. Before elaborating on Scott-Heron’s influences that made him an unsung hero and legend, let’s first take a brief gander into Scott-Heron’s life and upbringing.  

Scott-Heron was brought up in the destitute town of Lincoln, Tennessee before moving to the Bronx, which would quickly become his home and where he’d flourish. 

In his adolescence, Scott-Heron began to put together a collection of his poems and writings, and by the age of 19, he wrote his first novel, The Vulture

The motifs utilized in this murder mystery were drug abuse in the Black community and the hardships caused by it, which would become the basis on which Scott-Heron built upon for the rest of his 40-year career. After Scott-Heron’s ensuing college departure from Lincoln, he would release an array of conscious masterpieces, and this is where the legend of Gil Scott-Heron began.  

His debut album, New Black Poet Small Talk at 125th and Lennox, would feature some of his most popular, influential (and personal favorite) spoken word poems. Comment #1, a verbal onslaught on the farce of what the United States considers liberty. The Revolution Will Not Televised, which Scott-Heron applies pressure for all revolutionaries to enact on reform urgently, to not be complacent and wait for what the media  may tell you is going on. 

And, lastly, Whitey On The Moon, heavily criticizing the gratuitous spending by the United States government amid great desolation of the United States.  

Scott-Heron would solidify his legacy with his legacy with the release of Pieces of A Man in 1971, with his most famous song, Home Is Where The Hatred Is. Detailing the inner-conflict of a broken addict within in a broken home. How running away from your home doesn’t negate one’s problems. 

Supplying the masses with an unadulterated perspective on the life a majority of Blacks were living in the 60s and 70s.  

Scott-Heron has been dubbed as “The Godfather of Hip-Hop” due to the subject matter in which he wrote about and his cadences whilst uttering his lyrics. The art reflects the environment of the artist, what Scott-Heron innovated was vulnerability on a song, without having to be a great vocalist. 

This is a foundation of early hip-hop music, and has been used ever since. Due to Scott-Heron’s ability to express the state of the urban Black community within the era of post Dr. Martin Luther King and early Black Panther party he garnered notoriety and acclaim that lasted throughout his 40-year career.  

Though Scott-Heron has often been sampled and alluded to in many classic hip-hop tracks, kudos to Kanye West mostly, he remains a relatively unknown musical genius and poet.

His work and legacy is esoteric for the most part, but the offspring of such has been a beautiful thing to witness come into fruition. May Scott-Heron’s legacy live on infinitely.