Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx — We’re New Here

I was summarily confused when I found a remix of Scott-Heron’s work by Jamie xx (percussionist for the aforementioned band) on my desk.

In my opinion, The xx could stand to be remixed by Scott-Heron (adding some heart and soul), not the other way around.

Jamie xx makes Scott-Heron into his own personal sampling bank on “We’re New Here” for a cold, electronic set of tunes that I dislike. The worst example of this is “NY Is Killing Me,” which takes an excellent tune and samples out various phrases like “Don’tyouDon’tyouDon’tyouDon’tyouDon’tyou” and “Killing me-me-me-me-me-me-me” before getting into a slightly longer bit of it 1:30 in.

I’m all for reinterpretation (especially to those who may not of heard of his work, as some of Scott-Heron’s older catalog is used), but this hardly makes sense to what the soul icon is about. There’s no way to parse out the importance of his words when he’s turned into a fragmented sample. The track isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t serve Scott-Heron’s work well.

But then again, this isn’t the first remix I’ve hated.

“The Crutch” pairs Scott-Heron’s words with a breakbeat, which makes no sense. “I’m New Here” is a total re-envisioning of his words, removing the folk guitar and throwing down a spiky electronic backdrop. Seeing as the man’s words were kept mostly intact, it passes as an understandable interpretation, but it doesn’t anywhere approach the power of the original.

The only tune here that truly succeeds is “Running,” which was a highlight of “I’m New Here,” too. The evocative words are paired to a rhythmic track that much more recalls hip-hop than DJ sets, and the pairing works incredibly well. It’s the only cut here that doesn’t beg to be compared to its former incarnation; the two can exist in their own spaces equally, because they are revealing different parts of the same work. It is not, as so many tunes are on this remix record, merely using Scott-Heron’s work, but repurposing it.

I am disappointed with “We’re New Here,” especially with the elegance of “I’m New Here” and Scott-Heron’s previous works powering it. At least there’s not a new version of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” That version, I guess, is being played out on our TVs. And maybe that’s a sign that times have changed, and that maybe Scott-Heron does need to be a sound bite played over electronics.

But I still don’t like it, even if Jamie xx is right.  —Stephen Carradini

Stephen Carradini

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