It's an unlikely pairing, this collaboration between Gil Scott-Heron (an icon of '70s black radicalism) and Jamie xx (a white, British, twentysomething dance-music producer). Reworking Scott-Heron's 2010 album I'm New Here, Jamie xx builds new tracks around texts and songs by the elder statesman of spoken word. Stylistically, it ranges from hip-hop to the low-end lurch of dubstep and U.K. bass music; Scott-Heron's gravelly voice proves the perfect foil for his remixer's broken beats and air of elegant decay.
Trendsetting jazz/soul/funk artist, spoken-word poet and hip-hop progenitor, Gil Scott-Heron has a gift for righteous rants, a gift that may have set him up to fall even before his personal demons took him down. This bleak but captivating return casts him as more Orpheus than your typical soul survivor. Backed by menacing, bluesy downtempo, GSH croaks out mournful tales and quick sketches. Highlights include "New York Is Killing Me" and Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil." Though bookended by a hopeful tale, this set paints a portrait of a once strong man watching himself turn into a shadow.