100 Greatest Songs of the Decade #58 Gil-Scott Heron – New York Is Killing Me

Released : 2011

Late career renaissances aren’t a unique idea – see Johnny Cash for details. But after fifteen years of drug issues, legal wrangles, homelessness and seeing the hip-hop freight train he did more than most to create become one of the world’s most pre-eminent art forms, Gil-Scott Heron’s was one of the least likely.

His final release in a career punctuated by loss and missed opportunity, I’m New Here was released too early in the decade to feature ubiquitously in best of charts as it should, instead, most appropriate to remember it singly, on one of it’s best tracks. As a base, Scott-Heron worked with XL supremo Richard Russell on material steeped in the blues of his family’s Deep South upbringing, channelling amongst others the mysterious Robert Johnson.

New York is Killing Me is the fulfillment of a high concept that promised so much; the singer’s gravel-rough drawl rakes over a street choir dose of skeletal hand claps and the occasional bump of electro-bass, futurism and the folklore mixed together as pan-generational hollers. All hail music made by people who see both the tunnel and the light.

 

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