Many rappers sampled and looked up to the music styles of Scott-Heron, they include Nas, Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, KRS-1, and Kanye West to name a few. His music was even featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Mos Def said, “He’s one of my heroes, an incredible source of energy, power, and truth in the world.”
It was hard for me to want to report on the legendary poet a.k.a. The Forefather of Rap, Gil Scott-Heron, because I noticed that many news outlets and hip-hop Twitter refuse to talk about what his cause of death was – the disturbing details that probably attributed to his death – drugs and HIV.
In Hip-Hop nobody wants to talk about HIV, AIDS, or gay activities – unless of course, it is being thrown around as a diss to put down someone else. But for me, reporting about his dark side has more to do with the understanding of his whole person. And it also serves as a reminder that nobody is perfect. Look at Black Panther party leader, Huey P. Newton – he was a crack addict – even murdered by his drug dealer.
Gil Scott-Heron had been battling prison, cocaine-addiction, and HIV for years. One of his ex’s snitched to his New York judge claiming that Scott-Heron had a $2,000 a week cocaine habit. She also claimed that he lived in a crack house for a year. Scott-Heron denied all claims.
He violated parole for cocaine possession and has served two prison sentences because of his drug habit.
New York magazine reported in 2008, “He’s been HIV-positive for several years and says his health has improved, but he recently was hospitalized (he jokes, ‘the old one was all used up, so they gave me pneumonia’). He’s lost weight recently; his black jeans barely hang on to his hips. He still smokes, Marlboro Reds.”
Despite his demons, Gil Scott-Heron remains one of the most influential – and probably least credited in the mainstream – to many of our favorite rappers. He continued making music into 2010 with his last album, “I’m New Here,” which featured Nas and Mos Def.
RIP GIL SCOTT-HERON