At this year’s Liverpool International Music Festival a tribute will be held to the late poet, artist and civil rights activist Gil Scott-Heron – who died in May, 2011. It will feature hip hop artist Talib Kweli, reggae band Aswad, Liverpool natives the Christians and DJ Craig Charles. Guests of honour will include Scott-Heron’s son Rumal Rackley and, in recognition of his stance against the Apartheid in South Africa, Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela.
The man behind this showcase is Malik Al Nasir. In 1984, Gil Scott-Heron performed with his group the Amnesia Express in Liverpool at the Royal Court Theatre. At the gig he met an 18-year-old Al Nasir, who was a big fan and homeless at the time. Scott-Heron took him on the road and under his wing for a period of over 20 years – teaching the ways of the music business, on politics and how to read.
“He used to introduce me to people as his son, despite the fact that he has his own children. It was so touching,” said Al Nasir in a June 2011 article by The Guardian. “At the age of 12 I lost my father, and when I met Gil at 18 he took on that role and took it on seriously ... I'd been running with the wrong crowd and he took it as a personal challenge to turn me around; to take me away from a life of hustling and make me productive. If I'd ended up like most of my peers in care I'd be dead or in jail by now. Gil's intervention saved my life.”
Al Nasir went on to start his own record label and worked with the likes of Public Enemy, Run DMC and the Last Poets. He also started his own group Malik & the OG’s in 2006. The group, which features Scott-Heron’s own drummer and flute player, will be performing at the tribute.
Malik & the OG’s latest album Rhythms of the Diaspora Vol’s 1 & 2 ft Gil Scott-Heron & the Last Poets is out now.