Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here

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Gil Scott-Heron makes a triumphant return on I

It’s been 16 years since we’ve last heard a full record from Gil Scott-Heron. There is a completely new generation of artists who are deaf to his brilliance.The past 16 years have been rough on the Hip Hop forefather. There was multiple run-ins’s with the law, substance abuse issues, and a lack of new material. I’m New Here shows that Gil Scott-Heron's writing never lost a step, and though his voice is nowhere near the powerful instrument it was, it still has emotive quality that grabs the listener and won’t let go.

The thumping musical introduction to the “Me And The Devil’ is only outdone by Gil Scott-Heron singing “Early this morning when you knocked upon the door / And I said Hello Satan, I believe it’s time to go.” It’s clear that from the start, Heron will be facing each of the issues that have surrounded him. He’s a fearless artist who isn’t afraid to conquer what other artists couldn’t. Covering Robert Johnson is one of those feats. More times than not, his classic catalogue is butchered by ambitious artists wanting to rework his magic (see John Mayer’s cover of “Crossroads”). To say that Gil Scott-Heron does it successfully is an understatement. He captures the conflicting nature that Robert Johnson sang with, and makes the sinister nature of the lyrics and their pain his own. Like with any great cover, the song is a variation of the classic Johnson tune. Even though you can here how time has worn on Gil Scott Heron’s vocal chords, it makes the track all the more hauntingly beautiful. He leaves behind his Jazz/Soul fusion that defined most of his previous work and uses a Electronic sound by XL Records' owner/producer Richard Russell. Just as Kanye West sampled Heron on "My Way Home," the original source returns the favor using "Flashing Lights" as a recurring album soundbed on I'm New Here. Only a prolific artist can pull off what Heron successfully does. He bares his soul, shows his mistakes without regret, but all the while understands that they are what has made him the man he is on this record.


The title track sees Gil Scott-Heron channeling his inner Tom Waits. It’s an adjustment for the listener who comes in with own expectations. It’s not one of the stronger efforts on the album, but give it a few plays and its value grows. With that said, it’s lyrically an exceptional song, and the lone acoustic guitar puts more emphasis on the lyrics. Regardless of what time has done to Gil Scott-Heron’s voice, he is still a virtuoso writer and poet. “Your Soul and Mine” is an unbelievable track. With haunting strings and percussion that compliments the words, Gil Scott-Heron delivers a stand-out effort that is as dark as it is poetic.  The Spoken Word tracks on I’m New Here are all exceptional. The only complaint is that all of them may be too short but even that complaint sounds selfish when you dig into the content in those two minute poems.

“New York is Killing Me” is Gil Scott-Heron at his best. It’s Blues at it its purest essence. The building production that still has a stripped down quality provides a mere background for his withered voice. The content is out of this world and considering what Gil has been through since his last album; one can’t help but understand that it is extremely biographical. When he sings about longing to go back to Tennessee, you can see how city life and the obstacles that he has faced and often fell to, which have made him long for the slow and uncomplicated life of the country. It’s haunting hearing him sing, “Lord have mercy, have mercy on me.” He’s been to Hell and back, and I’m New Here gives the listener a first hand account of what was going on in his mind when incarceration, drugs and whatever else grabbed the headlines.

What has always made Gil Scott-Heron so brilliant and at the same time likable is ability to relate to the everyday man.  The content of I’m New Here can be related to by all. Everyone has been in a place where each track holds a specific meaning to him or her. The incredible, “Where Did the Night Go?” can be felt from park bench emcees, to college students. “New York is Killing Me” will attract an audience of homesick grown men, to overwhelmed city dwellers. There is a universal vibe in all his work, a vibe that can be intensely personal or somehow sum up what is wrong/right or needed to be done in society.

Gil Scott-Heron makes a triumphant return on I’m New Here. He strays from his signature Jazz/Soul fusion and delivers a post-modern Blues record. The album falls in line with many Blues legends that continue to produce their best material later in their careers. Gil Scott-Heron understands the process of aging as an artist and he doesn’t attempt to make the same music he did on such classics as Pieces Of A Man. He understands where his choices have led him, but he stands fully capable of starting anew.

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31 Comments

  • DR Jam

    I love this album, but I think that its greatness is more due because it sounds so unique to me, because when I dissect the album, there are very few tracks that truly stand out, about 6, and only three of those are melodies, "Me & the Devil," (my fave), "I'll take care of you," and :"NY is Killing Me." "I'm new Here" has country folk flavor to it, and although less poetic than the other tracks in the album that aren't very melodic, it is still powerful enough for the kin ear, melodically and lyrically. The intro and outro of the lp outstanding, just as good as many tracks in this lp. PS: I don't really understand the video clip of "Me & the Devil," I don't quite get the connection of the imagery with the song.

  • chapzilla

    good review - good album

  • LAfine

    http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_videos/659615?sel_song_id=3407393&autoplay=1

  • T.O.T.

    Got so excited i forgot to rate.

  • T.O.T.

    I have been enjoying this album for the past two weeks. Its a album that can't help but to catch your ear. The beat and lyrics of 'NY is killing me' are gritty but soulfull. This is a album to purchase.

  • KID SOUL

    I have been a fan for many of years and respect his craft and art form where ever he takes it, he has always spoken words or sung records from the heart no matter what, thats Black Music! Gil do your thang brother, one of the greatest poets of our lifetime!

  • sadiki

    Man this has been a long time comin to here some new music from ONE OF THE ORIGINAL FOUNDERS OF RAP. When I first heard the revalution will not be televised, I went out and copped all of the Gill Scott Heron I could find. and now I got one more to add to my collection. this his music helped me to be a better rapper and a better artist. I love it!!!!!!!!!!

  • soma79

    just listened to this album for the first time. i loved it. great stuff!!!

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  • big braveheart

    Still to buy but might be worth checking out. Gil has unbelieveably got to ties to Glasgow, his dad Giles played for Celtic in the 50s and for the legendary Third Lanark, which is now long gone. This was at football or soccer as you guys like to call it. Amazing to think Gil inspired Public Enemy and so many radical groups and he is linked to GLASGOW!!! The revolution will not be televised!

  • TKX

    Good bluesy record. The new school needs to hear stuff like this.

  • moh112

    dope album. expand your mind.

  • SHIT CORNY

    Shit unoriginal and irrelevant. SHIT CORNY

  • FreshAirInaRoomFullofSmoke

    This album was a long time coming AND worth the wait. Im going to scrounge up the money to BUY this album. As a poet, it is truly inspirational to hear this work and see how this man, a legend, put together yet another awesome collection of work that is doubly relevant to the world today and doesnt compromise the tone, maturity, and honesty that one would come to expect from Heron. Excellent

  • Gjk

    is it me or is hip hop misbehaving a little too much these days. i'm personally not feeling the whole gothic tone of music these days. since when does black music cross paths with this shit?

    • SAMURAI36

      It amazes me how people think that any culture was created in a vacuum. People treat Hip-Hop like some Adam & Eve story from the bible, where it just popped out of no where 7 days ago. Like the review says, this is one of Hip-Hop's forefathers. Do the knowledge on this, instead of the bullshit that they constantly bombard us with on the radio and TV.

    • Boom Bye Yeah

      Since Blues, pal.

  • Rock Raines

    Buying this week

  • promotherapy

    I have no knowledge of who this guy was until i read the article comparison of the two videos between him and Nas and then i started to do research on this fellow. AMAZING!!! His words reminds me of the LOST POETS. clearly a genius. Need more teachers like this for our generation

  • georgeLa

    Why would anyone be smoking on an album cover, nice to promote the stuidest habit in the world to millions. Like your proud of being stupid and want to show it to the whole world, come on now. If you music has a message great, but why should i listen to the message when your stupid enough to promote your disgusting habit to the world?

    • AxeMurder

      fucking cretin. that is obviously the extent of your criticism because you sure as hell aren't going to absorb, let alone listen to a second of this album

    • the ambassador

      guess you don't wanna learn more about his drug problems then, either. people smoke. smart people smoke. get over it. Gil is a legend and might not be around much longer anyway. Shit, he's like 60 now. And obviously pained in some ways if you take time to hear his songs. Let him have his damn cigarettes. I hope someone blows second hand smoke at you today for clicking on this review, obviously not reading it, and ignoring a musical powerhouse over a fucking tobacco product. As if you don't have any disgusting habits either.

    • Brick City Has

      Get over yourself, this is a review for the music not the brand of cigarette he smokes

    • Nope x10

      You're clearly too retarded for Hip Hop, and have no context for this man or this music.

  • Merry-Oh

    I was on top of this album all the way and finally got my copy last night. Great music right here. P.S. Fuck urbandictionary.com.