How Makaya McCraven reimagined Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here

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Bringing jazz samples and live instrumentation to the great poet and musician’s final album.

In 2010, Gil Scott-Heron released I’m New Here – his first in sixteen years. Produced by XL Recordings’ Richard Russell, it would prove to be Gil’s goodbye – a deeply personal epitaph from an artist whose playful wit and biting criticism of institutional racism and corruption had taken aim at the establishment for over forty years.

I’m New Here was a confessional of sorts, a more introverted record about family and growing old, which laid his vulnerabilities bare. The album’s acoustic recordings, subsequently released by XL, are among the most beautiful in Gil’s discography.

First remixed by Jamie XX, I’m New Here has now been reimagined once more as We’re New Again, this time by Chicago-based drummer and producer Makaya McCraven.

Weaving in samples of free jazz records released by his parents, cutting and pasting live improvisation and inhabiting the more personal elements of the original, McCraven has breathed new life into Gil’s final work, embodying the legacy of unity and togetherness he always fought for.

To mark the release, The Vinyl Factory caught up with Makaya McCraven in London to find out how he approached the process of making We’re New Again, unpicking the threads that tie his own story to the original.

Tracklist:

1. Gil Scott-Heron / Makaya McCraven – Special Tribute (Broken Home pt.1) (XL Recordings)
2. Gil Scott Heron / Makaya McCraven – Where Did The Night Go (XL Recordings)
3. Gil Scott Heron / Makaya McCraven – I’m New Here (XL Recordings)
Excerpt from Pierce Freelon in conversation with Gil Scott-Heron
4. Gil Scott Heron / Makaya McCraven – Guided (Broken Home pt.4) (XL Recordings)
5. Gil Scott Heron / Makaya McCraven – New York Is Killing Me (XL Recordings)
Excerpt from Jamie Byng in conversation with Gil Scott-Heron
6. Gil Scott Heron / Makaya McCraven – Me And The Devil (XL Recordings)

Gil Scott-Heron photo: Mischa Richter