#3: 'I'm New Here' by Gil Scott-Heron
Poetry is the progenitor of hip-hop, the use of spoken words to convey something artistic or emotional, so it is beautiful to see Gil Scott-Heron back after a long absence, bringing back the personal depth, honesty and beauty of the spoken word (along with some pounding rhythms to keep everything humming, ticking and bopping along). In the 70s, he spoke out for the black community, and for America in general, about the harsh political truths tearing the country apart. With 'I'm New Here', he has decided to look within (albeit speaking out about certain truths in the world simultaneously), exploring his life, loves and relationship with the world.
The record opens with the first part of 'On Coming From A Broken Home', where Gil Scott-Heron tells the listener a pulsating tale of his upbringing, and how he came to be the man he is today. This is all set to the backing track of 'Flashing Lights', a perfect nod to the iconic hip-hop star of today, another man with the same mindset of insight and self-awareness. Kanye had previously used a sample of 'Home is where the Hatred Is' on 'My Way Home', and used 'Comment No 1' to close out his most recent masterpiece (No 10 on this very countdown). Robert Johnson's 'Me and the Devil' and 'Your Soul and Mine' plough through the emotional self-worry and sense of worry deep down in the heart of Mr Scott-Heron, whilst numerous interludes give us wonderful little snippets of poetry and thought.
Massive Attack beats and soulful growls and scowls give the record an enormous sense of age, gravitas and levity, rumbling along like a slow but steady freight train, forcing its way into your mind. Unexpectedly, but absolutely amazingly, a Smog cover provides the title track with 'I'm New Here', a track that is perfect for the return of our titular poet with lines such as “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around”, sung with a perfectly-pitched low tumbling vocal strain. If Gil Scott-Heron stays on the so called straight and narrow and keeps on digging into his own mind, heart and soul, we will hopefully get another record that defines depth; and a record that overthrows the tired old hip-hop stereotypes, cliches and content, in favour of something altogether more meaningful, personal and, ultimately, powerful.