Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here

I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron

I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron

I’m New Here is Gil Scott-Heron’s first collection of new songs in 16 years, and it shows.  This is clearly the work of an artist who has had a lot of time for self-reflection. Having led a particularly troubled decade (prison, multiple arrests on drug charges), an album of deeply personal songs is not exactly what one might expect from a man who is so politically and socially charged. Perhaps his insistence on defying the idea of genre influenced this decision. Perhaps he just truly wants to express atonement. Scott-Heron states in one of his interludes, “If you gotta pay for things that you’ve done wrong, I got a big bill coming.”

With the opening track titled “On Coming From a Broken Home (Part 1),” you can’t help but feel weary that this album may be completely self-serving. However, with the first line, Scott-Heron immediately dispels this by making it a tribute to the women in his family who had raised him. Throughout the entirety of the album, he challenges the idea of the “broken home,” especially within the black community.

Another surprising element to this album is that an artist considered to be one of the godfathers of rap seems to be a step ahead of his contemporaries. With its near seamless blend of spoken word, trip-hop, jazz, blues, folk, new and old-school hip-hop, Scott-Heron seems to have made the album that so many new hip-hop artists have been striving to achieve. He is able not only to sample other artist’s music in an original way, but can add new musical elements in a fashion that matches the qualities of those samples; creating a cohesive sound.

Equally impressive is his ability to write a song that sounds classic and contemporary at the same time. A great example of this is the fantastic track “I’ll Take Care of You.” Perhaps the album’s strongest moment, it is completely reminiscent of Bill Withers at his finest: composition, timing, emotional instability masked in confidence. But what it lacks in terms of a Withers’ composition is exactly what makes it modern. It’s stripped down to the basics: bass drum keeping time, strings doing minimal work, piano hitting only the necessary chords.

Although all of these styles of music have been thrown into the mix, I’m New Here has a flow of unexpected ease.  Unfortunately, the album does lose some momentum toward its final moments, but that’s not to say it gets boring. For a man who has a lot to say, the album is timed perfectly so as not to feel preachy. Ultimately, this is an album about hope and redemption. As Scott-Heron reminds us in the title track, “No matter how far gone you’ve gone, you can always turn around.”

Tracklist – Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here:

1. On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 1)
2. Me And The Devil
3. I’m New Here
4. Your Soul And Mine
5. Parents (Interlude)
6. I’ll Take Care Of You
7. Being Blessed (interlude)
8. Where Did The Night Go
9. I Was Guided (Interlude)
10. New York Is Killing Me
11. Certain Things (Interlude)
12. Running
13. The Crutch
14. I’ve Been Me (Interlude)
15. On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 2)
Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here, reviewed by Daniel G on 2010-04-06T06:28:04-07:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

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