Yesterday (7 December), the news broke that acclaimed journalist Greg Tate had died. He was 64.
Tate was a long-time critic for The Village Voice in New York City, and his essays often explored the emergent influence of hip-hop culture on the arts in America. His first book, Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America, collected 40 of these essays.
Tate was also a founder of the Black Rock Coalition, an organisation launched in 1985 with “the purpose of creating an atmosphere conducive to the maximum development, exposure and acceptance of Black alternative music.” He was a Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies and lectured at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Throughout his life and work, Tate believed in connecting the dots between art and the realities which surrounded it. In exploring this, he became a vital critical voice in contextualising Black music within its wider creative histories. His worldview will be sorely missed by artists, critics and fans around the world.
In the wake of his passing, we’re revisiting some of Tate’s finest works. If you haven’t read these, here are six pieces which should serve as an introduction to the man The Source magazine called “the Godfather of hip-hop journalism”.
To Pimp a ButterflyRolling Stone
Tate’s review of Kendrick Lamar’s historic 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly, for Rolling Stone.
Cult-Nats Meet Freaky-DekeThe Village Voice
A 1986 essay on “the coming age of the post-nationalist black aesthetic,” featured in Flyboy in the Buttermilk.
Afropessimism and Its DiscontentsThe Nation
Tate’s last published piece, from September. “A guide for the perplexed, the puzzled, and the politically confused” reflecting on Afropessimism by Frank B. Wilderson III.
Azealia Banks, Fantasea (Self-Released Mixtape)SPIN
For SPIN, Tate’s review of Azealia Banks’ self-released debut mixtape.
Bad Brains: Hardcore of DarknessThe Village Voice
A 1982 piece for The Village Voice on the “baddest hardcore band in the land, living or dead”.