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OK, so you're not going to believe this, but Gil Scott-Heron's new CD, "Spirits" (TVT Records - TVT 4310), just came out a week or two ago, and it's, like, exactly what's been on my mind lately. So how did he know? This CD is just what the doctor ordered.

It begins with "Message To The Messengers". You may recall my discussion of an article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about the generation gap between the rappers of today and the "rappers" of 20 years ago. It was a dialogue between Ice Cube and Abiodun Oyewole, one of the Original Last Poets. Well "Message" is styled as a set of things for young rappers to consider:

Hey, yeah, we the same brothers from a long time ago,
we was talking about television and doing it on the radio.
what we did was to help our generation to realize
they got to get out there and get busy
because it wasn't going to be televised,

We got respect for young rappers
but if you gonna be teaching folks things
be sure you know what you're saying.

older folks in our neighborhood got plenty of know how.
remember, if it wasn't for them,
you wouldn't be out there now.

and I ain't coming at you with no disrespect,
all I'm saying is you damn well got to be correct.
because if you gonna be speaking for a whole generation,
and you know enough to try and handle their education,
be sure you know the real deal about past situations,
and ain't just repeating what you heard on the local TV station.
because sometimes they tell lies,
and put em in a truthful disguise.
but the truth is that's why we said it wouldn't be televised.

they don't know what to say to our young folks
but they know that you do.
and if they really knew the truth,
why would they tell you?


and if they look at you like you're insane
and they start calling you scarecrow
and say you ain't got no brain
and start telling folks that you suddenly gone lame
and that white folks have finally coopted your game
or, worse yet, implying that you don't really know..

well that's the same thing they said about us a long time ago!


but I think you young folks need to know
that things don't go both ways
you can't talk respect on every other song
or just every other day
what I'm speaking on now is the raps about the women folks
on one song she's your African queen
and on the next one she's a joke to you.

and you ain't said no words that I haven't heard
but that ain't no compliment
it only insults eight people out of ten
and questions your intelligence
four letter words or four syllable words won't make you a poet
it will magnify how shallow you are and let everybody know it.


and if they look at you like you're insane
or they call you scarecrow thinking you ain't got no brain
or start telling folks that you suddenly gone lame
or that the white folks have finally coopted your game
or that you don't really know..
they said about me a long time ago!

I've always admired Gil Scott-Heron for his clarity and his willingness to speak the truth to and about power, and his willingness to speak the truth to us about us. He's done it again. In "Work For Peace", he talks about the military-industrial complex ("the military and the monetary"). He says:

Americans no longer fight to keep their shores safe
just to keep the jobs going in the arms making workplace
and then they pretend to be gripped by some political reflex
but all they're doing is paying dues
to the military-industrial complex
the military/the monetary
the military/the monetary".


we got to work for peace
peace ain't coming this way
if we only worked for peace
if everyone believed in peace
the way they say they do
we'd have peace

the only thing wrong with peace
is you can't make no money from it

the military and the monetary
they get together whenever they think it's necessary
they turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries
they are turning the planet into a cemetery
we got to work for peace
peace ain't coming this way

we should not allow ourselves to be misled
by talk of entering the time of peace
peace is not the absence of war
peace is the absence of the rumors of war
and the threats of war
and the preparation for war

The last song/poem/rap is called "Don't Give Up" and is a real "Spirit-ual". I'll only quote the refrain:

Stand on up and say
Don't give up
It's time to stop your falling
You've been down long enough
Can't you hear the spirits calling,
Yeah, it's the spirits
Can't you hear it?
Calling your name

Yeah, it's the spirits all right. And that's the name of the album. Now, I've quoted Gil Scott-Heron in his own words because those words, in my opinion, are important. But quoting the words cannot do justice to his voice. I can't do justice to the music. This, for me, may be his most powerful music ever. If you can see him live, you should do it! In any event, go buy his CD! Please!

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Meanderings 1.05 -- May 8, 1994