Activist musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron's musical career began in the late '60s when Bob Thiele, famous jazz producer to the likes of Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane, urged the emerging poet and writer to give his poetry a musical form. With his first record, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, he quickly emerged as a sharp, intelligent critic of contemporary culture, boasting terrific jazz-styled accompaniment. By the late '70s, Scott-Heron's sound had adopted a bit more of a contemporary R&B aesthetic, but his jazz roots remain clear.
He hasn't released any new recorded material since 1994's Spirits, and in the early '00s, faced prison time for drug possession charges. He has since been released, and as of early 2009, he is working on a new record, and still makes occasional live appearances.