Many prominent hip hop figures have been in mourning this week in the wake of the passing of Gil Scott-Heron, the legendary poet/musician widely regarded as the “godfather of rap.” Scott-Heron’s music and spoken word poetry have been a touchstone for conscious-minded rappers and producers for generations.
At Scott-Heron's memorial service, held at Harlem’s Riverside Church, Kanye West, perhaps the best known promoter of the late artist's work, paid his respect in song. The rap star performed the latest of his numerous songs that sample Heron's work: "Lost in the World" from his most recent album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which contains portions of the poet's impassioned track "Who Will Survive in America."
Kanye wore all black and sunglasses to the service, which was attended by friends and family. Brenda Sykes, Heron's first wife, spoke, reminiscing about being introduced to her husband by the NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The poet's daughter, Gia, performed Bette Midler's song "The Rose" and read an original poem of her own.
Other rappers who have been moved to pay homage to Heron include fellow Chicago natives Common and Lupe Fiasco. Lupe penned a poem inspired by Heron's most famous work, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." In a statement, Common had this to say:
"Gil Scott-Heron was one of the greatest artists to ever walk the earth. The soul of his music touched my heart and spirit. His voice and his words and his songs were like the revolution being told in the freshest way. He is a true father of hip hop and he will always be cherished and loved.”
Scott-Heron will be remembered tomorrow in a second funeral service at Manhattan’s Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home located at 81st Street and Madison Ave from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
(Photo: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)