I caught myself listening to some old Kanye the other day…
I know Kanye is in timeout for a lot of us (including myself), but to be completely honest, old Kanye was truly inspiring. Talk about unapologetically black… Old Kanye didn’t give two fucks about anything mainstream media had to say.
Mixing unapologetic blackness with genius-like talent in the studio (and behind the mic) Kanye essentially became one of the leaders of my generation… Unfortunately, that time has long pass Kayne, but hopefully one day, the old ‘Ye will come back to us.
Anyhow, I was listening to My Dark Twisted Fantasy when a blast of nostalgia smacked the shit out of me.
*Quick Appreciation Tip*
For those who never got a chance to see the Album artwork for My Dark Twisted Fantasy, you’re in for a treat.
According to the New Yorker’s Calvin Tomkins,
“West came to Condo’s studio, where for several hours they listened to tapes of his music, and over the next few days Condo made eight or nine paintings[…]and a lurid scene of a naked black man on a bed, straddled by a naked white female creature with fearsome features, wings, no arms, and a long, spotted tail. West chose that one.”
I said you were in for a treat because… Well, see for yourself.
Couple this artwork with the album itself and it’s easy to see why some are willing to call Kanye a creative genius.
But anyway, back to my blast of nostalgia…
My Introduction to Gil Scott-Heron
I was pretty much done listening to the entire album when it happened. The track was one of Kanye’s remixes to an old poem by one of my favorite poets, Gil Scott-Heron. The song is called, “Who Will Survive In America.” If you haven’t heard it check it out below!
As soon as Gil started speaking I quickly found myself thinking about the first time I heard this song. It was my first introduction to Gil Scott-Heron, and at the time, I really didn’t understand what he was saying. All I knew was that the beat was fire, and I kind of liked his voice.
Halfway through the song, Gil said something that really caught my attention…
“America was a bastard
The illegitimate daughter of the mother country
Whose legs were then spread around the world
And a rapist known as freedom, free-DOOM”
– Gil Scott-Heron
That shit literally blew my mind bruh. I remember spending countless hours researching who this man is, is he even still alive, and where can I find more of his work. It didn’t take long for me to realize I found one of my favorite poets.
The first poem I ran across by Gil was the same one Kanye remixed for his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it will be the same poem I’ll be highlighting in this Timeless Teaching series.
The poem is titled, “Comment #1.” Before he jumps into the poem, Gil spends a few seconds explaining what the poem actually means.
“Poem here says, Comment #1
Uh, Comment #2 is dynamite
But Comment #1 is the one we decided
To use here this evening
Because it makes a comment if you listen
Closely on what is now being advertised
In East Harlem as the “Rainbow Conspiracy” – a combination of
The Students For A Democratic Society
The Black Panthers, and the Young Lords
And this is my particular comment about that conspiracy”
I decided to bring this poem to the Timeless Teaching series because we’re now living in an era of revolution. Coalitions and alliances are being built on both sides, and as a black man living in America, I can’t help but be a bit skeptical of those who see themselves as so-called allies…
This poem echoes my skepticism perfectly.
I’ll drop a link to the entire piece below, and I’ll also highlight some of my favorite quotes from the piece.
“Comment #1 by Gil Scott-Heron”
Track #4 from “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” (1970)
“The youngsters who were programmed
To continue fucking up woke up one night
Digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys.”
“We learned to our amazement untold tale of scandal
Two long centuries buried in the musty vault
Hosed down daily with a gagging perfume
America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter
Of the mother country whose legs
Were then spread around the world
And a rapist known as freedom: free doom”
“And behold a baby girl was born
Nurtured by slave holders and whitey racists
It grew and grew and grew screwing
Indiscriminately like mother, like daughter
Everything unplagued by her madame mother.”
“They receive through institutionalized everything
And vomit up slogans to stay out of Vietnam
They seek to hide their relationship with the world’s prostitute
Alienating themselves from everything
Except dirt and money with long hair, grime, and dope
To camo-hide the things that cannot be hidden
They become runaway children to walk the streets downtown with everyday
Black people sitting on the curb
Crying because we know that they will go back
Home with a clear conscience and a college degree.”
“The irony of it all, of course
Is when a pale face SDS motherfucker dares
Look hurt when I tell him to go find his own revolution
He wonders why I tell him that America’s revolution
Will not be the melting pot but the toilet bowl
He is fighting for legalized smoke, or lower voting age
Less lip from his generation gap and fucking in the street
Where is my parallel to that?
All I want is a good home and a wife and a children
And some food to feed them every night.”
“The only Truth that can be delivered to a four year
Revolutionary with a whole card i.e. skin is this:
Fuck up what you can in the name of
Piggy Wallace, Dickless Nixon, and Spiro Agnew
Leave brother Cleaver and Brother Malcolm alone please”
Now, of course, I believe white people have a huge role to play when it comes to fighting the good fight. However, there are serious steps white people need to take before calling themselves allies.
Related Piece: “White Saviors; Fantasy Vs. Reality”
This won’t be the last of Gil Scott-Heron in this ongoing series, so I hope you find this intro piece enjoyable. If not, then oh well.