“The Godfather of Rap”, “The Architect of Hip-Hop”, “Artist Against Apartheid”, “The Black Bob Dylan”, “A victim of his own poetry” were all mantra’s used to describe the complex artist that is Gil Scott-Heron, but to Liverpool street kid Malik Al Nasir then 18 years old and homeless, Gil represented something far more simple. He represented hope!
Gil took Malik on the road in 1984 and kept him by his side, raising him like a son and teaching him the politics and the business, until Malik was running his own record label and recording with Gil and his band under his own name Malik & the O.G’s. When Gil died Malik’s story went global and became the de-facto narrative about the man who changed the face of music forever, fought for civil rights and social justice worldwide and took the time-out to mentor a street kid from Liverpool, some 5,000 miles from where he came from.
By way of thanks and to further Gil’s legacy, Malik decided at the Harlem Funeral Home where Gil was laid to rest, that he would stop at nothing to pay homage to the man who saved his and so many other lives.
Q. As probably the only man or perhaps one of the few to have been under the direct tutelage of Gil Scott Heron; do you feel that there is some degree of pressure to carry on his legacy?
Having been under the direct tutelage of Gil Scott Heron and also his mentors’ The Last Poets, I feel a huge burden of responsibility to carry on that legacy. I have a unique insight into what that legacy is and means because they explained it to me over the last three decades in detail. Working with these guys was not a job, it was an education. They took me on to train me so that I would understand fully what the whole Black Arts Movement was about and it’s context – the wider Black Civil Rights Struggle. So when you’re acting as a roadie or tour manager for Gil Scott Heron, or a manager for Jalal of The Last Poets, you are actually ‘in school’. The job is the practical side of what you do but the real reason is the education. These guys were part of that civil rights struggle – post Malcolm and Martin – and to understand them, you have to understand that. Gil first encouraged me to learn to read, then introduced me to the authors of The Harlem Renaissance. He taught me Black history and Black Pride (Something I had not at that stage encountered in 1970’s UK).
That laid the foundation. I also studied their works. I was uniquely able to cross reference song lyrics with what was behind them, from the Watergate scandal to the Vietnam war, from Harlem street life to the original Jail toasts that precluded rap. From the politics of Black America to the religion of Islam. I studied it all from 1984 to date.
The real legacy of these guys are in those things, not the nonsense of bling and the objectification of women or the glorification of crime and street life, that’s the mis-direction that the commercial music industry pushed and that’s how Hip-Hop lost it’s way. I’m not a rapper, I’m a poet with a political edge and that’s what these guys were. I’m taking it back to the roots and I my debut album “Rhythms of the Diaspora Vol’s 1 & 2 drops on 1st Aug 2015 featuring LL-Cool J, Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets.
Q. Without spoiling anything, what has Malik and the O.G’s got in store for us at The Revolution Will be Live?
The Revolution Will Be Live at St. Georges Hall in Liverpool on 27th Aug 2015 and will be broadcast shortly afterwards on BBC Radio 6 Music as a Craig Charles “CC Funk & Soul Special.” I will be performing with my band which comprises also members of Gil’s band and we’ll be showcasing some of my album and some of my new repertoire (Next album stuff) we’ll have a full line-up. It’s part of Liverpool International Music Festival 2015 and myself and Richard McGinnis (Chibuku) have formed our own production Co. “Yesternight Productions Ltd” to deliver the show on behalf of LIMF 2015. Talib Kweli heads the bill along with Aswad, The Christians and Craig Charlse DJ set and Sophia Ben Yousef.
Q. Having someone like Talib Kweli appear is a big deal, allegedly Kanye West was also asked to appear at the tribute show, can you elaborate on this?
Kanye sang at Gil’s funeral and I asked him to help out by performing at the tribute I was planning and he agreed – that was back in 2011. I didn’t pull it off so that offer lapsed. But we’re more than happy to accommodate him if he stops by.
Having met and had the privilege to work with so many of the founding fathers of hip hop, what do you think about the direction it’s heading in at the moment? Do you listen to any of the leaders of the new skool?
It’s re-calibrating itself, I listen to Low Key and Immortal Technique and well as Hassan Salam, Yasiin Bey Common and Talib of course and others who are furthering knowledge.
Q. Spoken word has been back in the mainstream thanks to the brilliant George the Poet, why do you think we aren’t seeing more spoken word artists?
Promotors have not caught onto iit’s potential. If Alan Douglas (Last Poets producer) and Bob Theil (Flying Dutchman) and Clive Davies (Arista records) had thought like record Co execs today about Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets – Rap would never have happened. They need to wake up!
I think Alien (hold on to your dreams) is one of Gil Scott’s many timeless songs which still has so much relevance today. As many younger readers by not be too familiar with his work, apart from the obvious ones what Gil Scott song do you think everyone should hear? And why?
Everyone should listen to Gil’s version of Inner City Blues and the story of Mark Essex.
Q. I read a Chinese proverb once that said for a man to lead a full life he should write a book, plant a tree and have a son. I know you’ve written a book but what about the other two? What else do you have in the pipeline?
I wrote a book of Poetry – Ordinary Guy in 1984 and I’m working on my memoire, I planted an apple tree last year and I have three son’s so I guess I’m good in China? Peace.
To find out more about ‘The Revolution Will Be Live’ @ LIMF Click here.
The Revolution Will Be Live Event — Twitter: @yesternightltd
The Revolution Will Be Live Event — ticket link: http://www.ticketarena.co.uk/
Malik & The O.G’s – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
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