Poet Gil Scott-Heron has died in New York at the age of 62, his publisher confirms.
Scott-Heron was one of the more influential forces on the germination of rap with his late 60’s and 70’s work strongly inspiring the genre. The poet and musician struggled with drug issues over the past few years, however, culminating in a “reverent but heartbreaking profile” of Scott-Heron in the New Yorker in 2010 during which he openly smoked crack in front of the writer.
In the profile, Public Enemy’s Chuck D. had this to say about Scott-Heron’s role in the inception of hip-hop:
“You can go into the beat poets and [Allen] Ginsberg and [Bob] Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern world. He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else. In what way necessary? Well, if you try and make pancakes and you ain’t got the water, the milk or the eggs, you’re trying to do something you can’t. In combining music with the word, from the voice on down, you follow the template he laid out. His rapping is rhythmic. Some of it’s songs. It’s punchy, and all those qualities are still used today.”
Cause of death for Gil Scott-Heron has not yet been determined.