Gil described himself best as a “Bluesologist,” a Hegelian-cum-African student of the science of “how things feel.” Thus the vast emotional range in Gil’s writings—why the existential consequences of getting high and the resultant pathos could move that stuttering vibrato to emphatic song same as the prospect of South African liberation could. We call Gil a prophet, but most prophets don’t prophesy their own 40-year slow-death with the precision, poignancy and nuance he did on “Home Is Where The Hatred Is,” “The Bottle” and “Angel Dust.”
Gil was better than most rappers because he leaned as hard on his vulnerability as other muhfuhkuhs lean on their glocks, AK’s and dogged-out bitches, real or rhetorically imagined. His potency as a balladeer is vastly underrated compared to the shine shown his protest vehicles. If you yearn to hear your nutsack glorified, there are reams of lyrics ready to handily fulfill your manly needs. But the dude who needs a song allaying fears that his failure at marriage will cost him his children can only turn to “Your Daddy Loves You.” I don’t know what Gil’s relationship to he and Brenda Sykes’ only daughter Gia Scott-Heron was in his twilight-zone years, I just know that song owns the fraught distraught father-to-daughter communiqué category in the blues canon.