is this a footnote, an epilogue? is the light at the end of the tunnel nothing more than the brief flare of a struck match? no conclusion. there’s no conclusions here. it’d be easy (but lazy) and understandable to picture scott-heron as the junkie walking through the twilight on home is where the hatred is. does any of this really matter?
consider: we have what we have, which is in this moment and of this moment. the full stop one space back isn’t marking the end of anything other than a sentence. not a real termination or conclusion, but a temporary one, a joining if you will. and one that’s real and (un)perfect, offering more than any mere comma or colon can. ginsberg understood this.
is this a prologue then, a new beginning? a lifetime ago on is that jazz? he says, only millions of sounds picks me up when i’m down, let me salvage a piece of myself. he says, you know i ain’t got nothing else. is this then a resurrection, a resuscitation of sorts using all he’s got – words, music.
whatever it is, it’s not of the past particularly. it’s not an apology – if i hadn’t been as eccentric, as obnoxious, as arrogant, as aggressive, as disrespectful, as selfish, i wouldn’t be me. it’s not a compromise (would you really expect one?). there is no funk, no jazz, no soulful sinew, no didactic (beyond the personal), no polemic. forget all this godfather of rap shit. people spoke before kool herc.
all these things that it’s not. but what it is, what it is, is genuine. what it is, is intimate. like a fistful of hazy polaroids; a loose scatter of unapologetic ruminations; borrowed songs and evesdropped conversations; snatches of history, past present and future; scraps of poetry and contextual phrases. it’s his life, kaleidoscopic. it’s music as a kindof autobiographical collage. consider the words as semi-coherent first-person narrative, a disjointed cinéma vérité scored by brittle bare-boned ambience. part wooden, part wired. the creak of string and keys married to the industrial, the miasma of electricity.
sixteen years since spirits. several calendars worth of jail-time and narcotics. and for all the writing and performing he’s done in that time i’m new here fingertip-stretches towards thirty minutes. it’s as fragmented and hazy and disjointed as his life recent has probably been. a world of nod, a world of lonely men and no love, no god. not a prison diary. not an addicts journal. but reflections casually glanced in mirrors, fractured, scuffed, grubby. he says, if you gotta pay for things that you’ve done wrong, then i got a big bill comin’ at the end of the day. he says this and laughs.
and that laugh like his voice now, an ache that goes deep, there’s a lifetime in it. it’s a voice that’s splintered and broke, a voice that’s weary-worn. one that owes as much to waits and dylan now as it did to sly stone or otis redding then. one that owes much to the desolate storytelling, ambiguous morality and cracked gnarl of old blues. one that strives not for redemption but more an acceptance of fate and the life you’ve made for yrself. it’s robert johnson saying hello satan, i believe it’s time to go. it’s that past present and future history again, that möbius strip timeline. looking forward, looking back. the stark satorial glimpse of existence laid out in pieces from start to finish, one that offers freedom alongside the brutality of self-awareness and inevitability.
it’s not about promise but possibility. so when he sings no matter how far wrong you’ve gone you can always turn around, we hope so. for all our sakes.