A triumphant, if unlikely, comeback
After years of crime and punishment, casual obscurity and a half-sung hip-hop canonization, Gil Scott-Heron has released a new album. On it, he covers Smog, enlists a guitarist from Oakley Hall, samples Kanye West and invokes Burial, all with a scant sniff of regard for what anyone might have to say about it. The prophet of revolution smolders deeper into himself—a gnarled, wise tree in an urban glade. The album sounds heavy and elusive, like a field recording, and it will surely be studied with the most powerful of cultural microscopes, but its author will just puff cigarettes and chuckle. He will hang in your iPod, humored by his own acceptance of your invitation, and he will bare his soul with the same fearless stridency that made his name—defiant with a cold, weird dignity.