Sunday, March 4, 2018

The One With Gil Scott-Heron

This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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Some people are going to read this post and be like, "Wow, I had no idea." And some people are going to read this post and be like, "This woman is clueless." But I'm going to write this post either way because I'd rather be transparent about my learning and show how I'm working to learn more than to pretend: a. I know so much or b. I'm not learning everyday. Because I am. I am learning everyday and I do not claim to know everything.  

I am a learner.

This month I'm focusing my attention on learning more about spoken word. I shared Noel Quiñones' spoken word performance 8 Confessions of My Tongue and the emotional power that comes with writing about something many people might connect with. Then I realized I needed to find other spoken word poets to listen to and learn from. I did a search and came up with the article, Five Spoken Word Poets Whose Work Will Change You.

The article starts, "Spoken word poetry has a history rich with traditions of hip-hop and blues, comedy, performance, and, most importantly, radical young artists. The art form is apparent in everything, from the writing that emerged out of the Harlem Renaissance to Gil Scott-Heron’s famed 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,' and spoken word has long flourished in part by positioning itself as a platform for political expression—and ultimately change."
Of course, I'm familiar with the Harlem Renaissance, even more so after I recently reading Nikki Grimes' book One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance, but I wasn't familiar with Gil Scott-Heron or "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" so I went and did a Google search...and here's where I really show my ignorance because I truly don't know much about hip hop and where it started and why and who was involved in the beginning and how it has evolved to where it is now. Obviously, I have a lot of learning to do but I started with Gil Scott-Heron. 

Here's the Wikipedia entry about Gil Scott-Heron where I started. He was a spoken word performer in the 70's and 80's whose lyrics focused on social and political issues. He's very well known for his piece "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" which was on his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox. Many people consider him the first rapper/MC and that he influenced future African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul, though it seems there are others who were also becoming popular at this same time and that the founder of rap can be debated. You can listen to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" below. It's powerful!

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" has been sampled and parodied numerous times. I found that it is even on the Black Panther soundtrack and you can hear it here on the Black Panther trailer if you listen closely to the music. (I'd like to add that if you haven't seen Black Panther yet, please go see it! It's amazing.)

I also read An Introduction to Gil Scott-Heron in 10 SongsGil Scott-Heron, Poet And Musician, Has Died, and Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Protest Culture, Dies at 62. In one interview, I read that he felt that if a song wasn't going to be about something important, than it should just be an instrumental and as I listened to more and more of his songs, I saw that he definitely used his words to speak out about important issues. Personally, from what I understand of spoken word, it seems like that's the point. Spoken word is an opportunity to speak out about social and political issues that you care about. Not that they have to be about this but it does seem like it's the case a lot of the time. 

I'm so glad to know Gil Scott-Heron and to continue exploring spoken word and poetry and rap and hip hop. I'm really loving all the learning I'm doing. If you have any resources to share, please add them in the comments!

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